Celebrities such as Demi Lovato, Nicole Richie, Ashlee Simpson, Oprah Winfrey, Mary-Kate Olsen, and Wynonna Judd have each shared, publicly, their issues with eating. Their openness contributes to increased attention and understanding of eating related issues. Increased diagnoses of eating disorders may be due to better detection and society’s increased understanding of eating disorders. Some facts about eating disorders may surprise you. Below, here are six facts you probably didn’t know about:
1. Eating Disorders are appearing in younger and younger children; Eating disorders research shows eating disorders appearing in children as young as age five. Contributing factors may be older siblings who are weight conscious; parents who are weight conscious and/or dieting; physical, emotional or psychological abuse.
2. Eating Disorders are not a “rich, white woman’s issue.” More research is showing that eating disorders affect ALL ethnic groups and affects people across social strata.
3. Eating Disorders and immigrants; Eating disorders appear to be rare in immigrants from other countries, however, rates of eating disorders in the first generation born in the United States is near equal the general population of the U.S. It appears once immigrants’ families become acculturated to the U.S., body image issues increase to match the dominant culture.
4. Eating disorders are affecting males in increasing rates. Research estimates approximately 10% of males are affected by eating disorders. Some potential reasons are: weight driven sports such as wrestling, weight lifting, and boxing. Male athletes have to “make weight” in rapid and dangerous ways, possibly setting the stage for future eating issues.
5. New eating disorders are appearing. One such new proposed disorder by Dr. Steven Bratman, is called “Orthorexia” where the individual affected is preoccupied by only eating food that person considers “healthy.” This issue is harder to define, as more and more Americans are becoming increasingly health conscious. For example, many more Americans are eliminating sugar, gluten and casein from their diets for health reasons. It can be difficult to determine if someone is having an unhealthy focus on food.
6. Eating Disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental health issue/diagnosis. This is the reason obtaining treatment is extremely important.
Much more research needs to take place with each of these issues. Understanding the factors which influence and maintain eating disorders in some people is critical due to the high mortality rate which can result from disordered eating.
In a nutshell, if you or someone you know spends too much time focusing on food (what to eat and/or what not to eat), you can lovingly suggest that person consult with a professional. He or she may consult with a nutritionist, medical professional or mental health professional. These professionals work as a team to treat eating disorders as each aspect is critical to treatment of eating disorders.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Eating disorders, unlike many other mental health issues, can be life threatening, or lead to permanent severe physical harm. If you have, or suspect you have, an eating disorder, please consult a professional. At the very least, please visit your primary medical care provider and disclose that you are experiencing eating-related issues so that your doctor may run tests specific to your eating issue(s).
Resources for further reading:
National Eating Disorder Association
Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness
National Association for Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Eating Disorders
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Author: Eating Disorder and Trauma counselor | Orlando Therapist Laura Peddie-Bravo, MA, LMHC