Raising Awareness on Eating Disorders
Eating disorders, of which there are many kinds, are a serious concern, especially amongst teens and young adults. Oftentimes, eating disorders are present along with other medical or mental illnesses, and, in some cases, can be deadly.
Anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder characterized by eating, too small of portions, has an especially high mortality rate that is 18 times more likely than individuals of the same age who do not have medical or mental illness. In fact, eating disorders have the highest mortality rate compared to any other mental illness. Individuals who suffer from anorexia can also develop other complications leading to long term, or deadly, problems including heart damage, low blood pressure, organ failure, brain damage, infertility, and suicide. Among adolescents, anorexia is the third most common chronic illness according to ANAND (National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders).
Eating Disorders Co-Occurring With Other Mental Illnesses
Eating disorders are also related to psychological issues, such as depression, anxiety, and, at times, a severely distorted sense of one’s body image or dysmorphia. According to the ANAND, nearly half of all those who have an eating disorder also meet the criteria for some type of depression. It’s estimated that up to 24 million Americans suffer from an eating disorder, however, it’s difficult to get an accurate assessment due to the nature of many eating disorders being underreported, especially in male populations who are more likely to suffer from dysmorphia, which is characterized by an extreme preoccupation with adding bulk and muscle, even to the point of using dangerous drugs or steroids to help make it happen.
Bulimia nervosa, a binge eating disorder is characterized by uncontrollable binge-eating patterns followed by some type of extreme regulation to eliminate or reduce the calories consumed. Although much attention is given to those who purge through vomiting, other forms of control include fasting, the use of diuretics, or excessive exercise. Bulimic eating patterns can happen up to several times each day. Long term problems include extreme dehydration, gastrointestinal problems, and electrolyte imbalances, which can ultimately lead to heart attacks.
Although there is strong evidence of eating disorders amongst all populations, teenagers are the ones which receive the most attention and treatment. Over half of teenage girls and a third of teenage boys control their body weight through unhealthy means such as skipping meals, purging, smoking cigarettes, and using laxatives.
Whether you are a teen, parent, or concerned friend, know that we’re here to help and that we care. No matter what the barrier is to you getting the best treatment possible, we’re here to partner with you so that you can have a successful, healthy, and productive lifestyle and overcome any and every challenge that is set before you.