HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, at least 10% of the population are struggling with an eating disorder, disordered eating, and or body image. February, 21-27 is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week in the United States.

The week is meant to not only bring light to the mental illness but let those who are suffering know that there is help.

Every year in the U.S. over 10,000 people die as a direct result of an eating disorder. To put that into perspective, that’s one death, every 52 minutes.

Linda Steakley, a registered dietitian says the awareness week is not only to raise awareness of all the types of eating disorders but to bring to light the prevalence of them. “Especially since COVID, we’ve seen such a rise in eating disorders,” Steakley told News 19 a lot of that may be due to the isolations.

When talking about eating disorders, Steakley says there are five that are the most common. The most popular one is Anorexia Nervosa, which is the fear of gaining weight. She told News 19 they all don’t have to do with weight gain and can range from the fear of gaining weight to binge eating.

“The psychological issues and deal with those first before you can really get to the crust of the eating disorder.”

Signs of an eating disorder can present itself at any age, “We’ve seen it in kids as you as six years old talking about weight loss and body image,” Steakley said, adding that with young kids and adults always on social media, it’s done a number on the human psyche and this generation.

“We frequently see these girls picking apart their body size or their body shapes. Something about, ‘My cheeks are too fat or my thighs are too big, my waist is too thick,’ and they’re perfect just the way that they are,” Steakley told News 19.

With everything at our fingertips, there are apps out there that promise to help someone on their weight loss journey or just a healthy life style in general, but, Steakley says while they may be helpful, not everyone reacts to the thought of weights, numbers, scales and counting calories the same.

“Some people it may not bother them, others, they may be affected negatively, So, if you find your child is excessively looking at labels and talking about good food and bad food, then you might need to kind of zero in on what they’re really thinking.”

Small adjustments can be made at home, Steakley says like having family dinners together at the table or setting a scheduled time to eat can help you see if your loved one may be struggling with something more serious.

Comments made, Steakley says are very impressionable to people, especially young kids, “One of the things that parents need to be very careful of is that comment on their child’s weight, you know, oh you look like you’ve gained a little weight or oh, you look like you’ve lost a little weight, well if they lost a little bit of weight, they may want to lose more.”

Steakley says if you believe your loved one may have an eating disorder, get some help whether it be a physician or a specialist as quickly as you can before the disorder can progress.