Eating disorders have doubled in the last 10 years and the National Association of Anorexia and Related Disorders estimates that a person with an eating disorder dies every hour due to suicide or medical complications. The problem is real and it is eating away at more vulnerable kids, teens, and adults.
A Worldwide Phenomenon
The rise in the diagnosis and treatment of eating disorders is not limited to the US. The phenomenon is also apparent in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the UK, as well as most of Europe. Eating disorders mostly affects women, particularly young girls, but men are also affected (albeit at a vastly lower rate). Cultural and societal pressure, whether real or perceived, will often take young girls to the extreme, forgoing food to remain thin or eating massive amounts to sate their depression. However, preoccupation with food and body weight are not sure signs of eating disorders unless coupled with mental distress and manic emotions during mealtimes.
More than Just Anorexia
While Anorexia is the most well-known eating disorder, it isn’t the only one. People often mistake bulimia for anorexia, but the two have marked differences. Binge eating, a newly-diagnosed disorder, is also on the rise and its symptoms often go unnoticed. Anorexia is marked by the refusal to eat or consume calories. Of all the eating disorders, Anorexia is the most dangerous. People suffering from anorexia will often take extreme measures to conceal their affliction, layering clothes, putting on makeup, and avoiding social interactions.
Denying the body much-needed nutrients could lead to permanent damage in just 6 months, which could lead to undue stress on the heart, liver, and kidneys, as well as a significant loss in bone density. Bulimia is similar to anorexia in its pursuit of thinness. However, Bulimic individuals will normally eat food — only purging themselves (by throwing up, using laxatives, or exercising like mad) when nobody is around. Individuals with Bulimia will often have extensive damage to their throats from the constant purging.
Binge-eating is not so defined as the other two, but it is now the most commonly diagnosed eating disorder. Binge eating is not an urge that is active throughout the day and it only manifests during times of stress. Unlike anorexia and bulimia, binge eating will lead to weight gain, often to the point of being obese.
Eating disorders often need outside interference to get treated. Similar to addiction and alcoholism, individuals with eating disorders are often ignorant or uncaring of the damage they do to themselves. Left untreated, eating disorders can severely damage the body, sometimes leading to death (especially in cases of Anorexia). Treatment will often require confinement or inpatient programs, especially when the patient’s health has severely deteriorated. Outpatient treatment plans and programs can follow once the patient has recovered both mentally and physically.
Eating disorders should be a serious concern for every parent. They might be hard to spot, but a little more attention to your loved ones can reveal the tell-tale signs. Recognize the gravity of the situation and get professional advice as soon as possible.