Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are complex mental and physical health conditions that cause people to become overly occupied with their weight, eating habits and body image. These disorders, which fall into a wide range of behaviors, can cause significant disturbances in a person’s eating habits, and can lead to critical physical problems or death. In fact, according to the National Institute of Mental Health’s recent publication, Eating Disorders people with anorexia nervosa, a common eating disorder, are more than 18 times more likely to die young when compared with other people their age in the general public.1.

An eating disorder is a serious illness which creates a desire to eat a significantly different amount of food than usual; this could be a lot more food or a very little amount of food than a person usually consumes.  The condition may start slowly but eventually  progresses to the point that the person has little control over their eating patterns. Profound anguish about body image or weight can play a part in the development of an eating disorder. Additionally, other mental illnesses such as depression, bipolar disorder, substance abuse and anxiety issues can impact a person’s propensity to develop an eating disorder.  Eating disorders are treatable diseases which can become life threatening if left untreated.

The most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder. For many, eating disorders first appear in the teen years or early 20s. Some will develop eating disorders during childhood or well into their adult years. A 2012 study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders found that almost 4 percent of women over 50 binge-eat and nearly 8 percent reported purging. While eating disorders commonly affect women and girls, some men can be affected by the condition as well. Studies show that nearly 40 percent of people diagnosed with binge-eating disorder are male.2.

It is difficult to determine exactly how many people are affected by eating disorders since many go undiagnosed. Official estimates of people with eating disorders in the U.S. vary widely, from 11 million to 18 million. The Eating Disorders Coalition estimates 14 million Americans have an eating disorder. According to the National Institute for Mental Health, 0.6 percent of the adult U.S. population will be affected by anorexia nervosa or bulimia during their lifetime. According to the Journal of the American Academy of   Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 1991, at least 2.7 percent of children between 13 and 18 years of age, will be affected by a “severe” eating disorder.

Recent Eating Disorders Commentary

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