The number of eating disorders is on the rise and the statistics are alarming. A current estimate indicates there are approximately seven million women and one million men suffering with an eating disorder such as Anorexia or Bulimia in the United States. Additionally, 25 million more individuals are believed to be affected by Compulsive Overeating Disorder. Health professionals suspect the number may be quite a bit higher given that only ten percent of all of those afflicted receive treatment for their disorder. Among adolescents, Anorexia Nervosa is the third most common chronic illness and 4 out of 5 13-year-olds report having made efforts to lose weight.
The pervasiveness and prevalence of eating disorder should come as no surprise to most Americans, nearly half of whom are likely to know an individual with and eating disorder. One study by the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders concluded that within a decade of contracting the eating disorder, as many and 10% of Anorexics will have died due to problems, mental and physiological, associated with the disease. Furthermore, one fifth of all of those engaging in Anorexic behavior will suffer premature death because of complications related to the eating disorder such as organ failure, heart disease, alcohol and chemical dependency, and suicide. Of all mental illnesses, eating disorders represent the highest mortality rate.
Considering the inherent lethality of what is clearly a major health crisis, it’s important to be able to identify the warning signs of eating disorders so that you may be able to guide an afflicted individual to receive the care they need. Below is some general information on that for which you should be on the outlook:
Anorexic individuals tend to diet obsessively despite the fact that they may be of a “normal” healthful weight or under weight. They will frequently exercise excessively, refuse to eat (making excuses for their lack of hunger) and exhibit outward physical manifestations such as extreme weight loss, and thinning or unhealthy looking hair.
Individuals with Bulimia are often overly concerned with their weight and it is typical for them to avoid social situations that center around food and its consumption. They will frequently visit the bathroom after or during meals and may exhibit physical symptoms such as bad breath, dental health issues, and scratches or cuts on the backs of their hands due to purging efforts.
Compulsive Overeaters (also known as Binge Eaters) are often caught in the vicious cycle of binge eating and depression. With Compulsive Overeating food is used as a coping mechanism to deal with uncomfortable feelings. The amount of food eaten and duration can vary greatly for a Compulsive Overeater. For many individuals suffering from Compulsive Overeating, binges may not be able to be broken into specific episodes but rather days where the individual eats more than normal throughout the day. It is not uncommon for Compulsive Overeaters to eat normally or even restrictively in front of others and then make up for eating less by Compulsively Overeating in private at a later time. Compulsive Overeating late at night, when others are asleep or frequenting fast food restaurants and convenience stores alone, can also be common. Similar to Anorexics and Bulimics, Compulsive Overeaters are constantly struggling and unhappy with their weight.
An informative video on Eating Disorder Indicators: