While awareness and education surrounding eating disorders is on the rise, it might be surprising to hear that eating disorders themselves are on the rise in both men and women. Affecting as many as eleven million people in the U.S., bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa and binge eating can be found in anyone, no matter their age, gender or lifestyle.
A combination of mental and physical health issues, eating disorders are often seen in conjunction with low self-esteem, depression and anxiety, meaning that treatment is often complex. Medicine has yet to determine the specific cause of each of the illnesses, but discoveries have been made linking eating disorders to traumatic childhood events, psychological issues, stressful personal relationships and genetic predisposition.
Teenagers and children with a family history of eating disorders are often more likely to develop eating disorders as well as children who have parents who constantly criticize their appearance. No matter what, medical professionals can agree that there’s not usually just one trigger that leads to an eating disorder, but more likely and more commonly, a combination of factors comes together in the development of anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder.
Serious effects of anorexia can include heart issues and even sudden death. Bone health can be a concern not only because of malnutrition, but also because teenagers who develop eating disorders can develop brittle skeleton. Bulimia can change the electrolyte levels in the body and also cause heart issues in addition to gastrointestinal problems. And binge eating shares many characteristics with obesity, including diabetes, high cholesterol and blood pressure issues.
No matter what eating disorder is involved, treatment is necessary but often times dismissed. It’s important to be able to identify unhealthy eating habits and skewed body image problems, which are signs of an eating disorder. Make sure to seek professional help from a specialist, who can use the proper tools to help. While eating disorders are difficult for patients and their families, they are treatable.