Eating Disorders Are Still Prevalent

Eating Disorders

It seemed like in the 1990s all we heard about were anorexia and bulimia, but what happened after the Lifetime movies stopped being made about eating disorders?

Nowadays, in our society it is not uncommon to think of “dieting” as commonplace and almost the norm. Rarely do you go around thinking about the affects the media have had on our body image and self-perception, how the socially distorted image of the ideal man or woman has become the obsession of millions of people across the world, but is hardly attainable. It is this obsession that drives those susceptible to developing eating disorders deeply into those disorders.

Get to know eating disorders again by reading their definitions and checking out the alarming facts. It is an incredibly prevalent disease in our society that should not be ignored. Why? Because: “The mortality rate associated with anorexia nervosa is 12 times higher than the death rate of ALL causes of death for females 15 – 24 years old” and “20% of people suffering from anorexia will prematurely die from complications related to their eating disorder, including suicide and heart problems.” And that does not even include the statistics for bulimia and binge eating disorder as well.

The Definitions:

Anorexia; “An eating disorder characterized by markedly reduced appetite or total aversion to food. Anorexia is a serious psychological disorder. It is a condition that goes well beyond out-of-control dieting. The person with anorexia, most often a girl or young woman, initially begins dieting to lose weight. Over time, the weight loss becomes a sign of mastery and control. The drive to become thinner is thought to be secondary to concerns about control and fears relating to one’s body. The individual continues the endless cycle of restrictive eating, often to a point close to starvation. This becomes an obsession and is similar to an addiction to a drug. Anorexia can be life-threatening.” (Medterms.com)

Bulimia; “Also called bulimia nervosa. An eating disorder characterized by episodes of secretive excessive eating (binge-eating) followed by inappropriate methods of weight control, such as self-induced vomiting (purging), abuse of laxatives and diuretics, or excessive exercise. The insatiable appetite of bulimia is often interrupted by periods of anorexia.

Like anorexia, bulimia is generally thought to be a psychological eating disorder. It is another condition that goes beyond out-of-control dieting. The cycle of overeating and purging can quickly become an obsession similar to an addiction to drugs or other substances. Although bulimia has been widely considered to be psychological and socio-cultural in origin, not everyone is susceptible to developing bulimia.

There is now a substantial literature showing that bulimia is described as genetic and that the pronounced familial nature of bulimia is due largely to the additive effects of a number of genes. One bulimia susceptibility gene is known to be linked to chromosome 10p (the short arm of chromosome 10). Another susceptibility gene for bulimia may be on chromosome 14.” (Medterms.com)

Some of the Alarming Facts:

By the Numbers:  In the United States, as many as 10 million females and 1 million males are suffering from eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia. (Crowther et al., 1992; Fairburn et al., 1993; Gordon, 1990; Hoek, 1995; Shisslak et al., 1995)

Time Magazine reports that 80% of all children have been on a diet by the time that they have reached the fourth grade.

Americans spend over $40 billion on dieting and diet-related products each year (Smolak, 1996).

Anorexia is the 3rd most common chronic illness among adolescents. (Public Health Service’s Office in Women’s Health, Eating Disorder Information Sheet, 2000.)

The diet and diet related industry is a 50 billion dollar a year enterprise. (Garner, D.W., Wooley, S.C. (1991), “Confronting the failure of behavioral and dietary treatments for obesity.” Clinical Psychology Review, 11, pp. 727-780.)

Most fashion models are thinner than 98% of American women (Smolak, 1996).

25% of American men and 45% of American women are on a diet on any given day (Smolak, 1996).

Americans spend over $40 billion on dieting and diet-related products each year (Smolak, 1996).

It is estimated that currently 11% of high school students have been diagnosed with an eating disorder. (ANAD Ten Year Study. National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. http://www.anad.org/)
An estimated 10 to 15% of people with anorexia or bulimia are male. (Carlat, D.J. Camargo. Review of Bulimia in Males. American Journal of Psychiatry, 154, 1997.)

90 % of those who have eating disorders are women between the ages of 12 and 25.
(Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, The Center for Mental Health Services, offices of the US Department of Health and Human Services.)
1 in 5 women struggle with an eating disorder or disordered eating. (National Institute of Mental Health’s (NIMH) guide, Eating Disorders: Facts About Eating Disorders and the Search for Solutions.)
Eating Disorders affect up to 24 million Americans and 70 million individuals worldwide. (The Renfrew Center Foundation for Eating Disorders, Eating Disorders 101 Guide: A Summary of Issues, Statistics and Resources, published September 2002, revised October 2003, http://www.renfrew.org.)