Affecting more than 30 million Americans each year, eating disorders are among the most common mental health disorders in the United States. Despite their prevalence, most people don’t understand eating disorders. Stigmas, stereotypes, and misconceptions surrounding Anorexia, Bulimia, and other forms of disordered eating make it difficult to seek help. Overcoming eating disorders begins with understanding.
10 Important Facts About Eating Disorders You Need to Know
Eating Disorders Affect People From All Demographics
Stereotypes surrounding eating disorders lead many to believe eating disorders only affect middle-class, white, teenage girls living in the suburbs. Not only is this incredibly harmful, it ignores the suffering of millions who don’t fit that particular mold. In reality, eating disorders affect people of all ages, racial backgrounds, gender identities and sexualities.
Eating Disorders are Less Likely to Be Treated in Men, Minorities
Despite eating disorders existing across all demographics, men are still less likely to seek treatment for disordered eating than women. Social stigmas lead to shame, causing men to suffer in silence. People in minority communities are also less likely to seek treatment for eating disorders and other mental health issues.
Eating Disorders Have Genetic and Environmental Roots
While some studies suggest a genetic connection to eating disorders, environmental influences may have a stronger influence. Factors such as poverty, media constructed beauty standards, and dysfunctional family environments can contribute to the development of eating disorders.
Eating Disorders Can’t Be Diagnosed on Appearance Alone
Another harmful stigma involves what people with eating disorders look like. Just because someone appears to be under or overweight doesn’t necessarily mean they have an eating disorder. In fact, most people living with eating disorders do not fit the stereotypical image portrayed in the media.
Eating Disorders Hide in Plain Sight
The common thread of all eating disorders is a preoccupation with food and eating. For some, that manifests as restriction, purging, or binging. For others, its obsession with calorie counting, constant dieting, or excessive exercise. These signs can be hard to recognize as forms of disordered eating. In some cases, people believe their eating or exercising habits are healthy, but obsessive thoughts or difficulty controlling eating habits can have serious consequences.
Eating Disorders Can Have Life-Threatening Consequences
People living with eating disorders are more likely to die from suicide or health complications related to disordered eating. This includes heart issues, gastrointestinal damage and increased risk for certain cancers. Long-term effects include dental issues, osteoporosis, and circulatory issues.
Eating Disorders Can Shorten Life Expectancy
As a mental health disorder that has physical consequences, some of the potential side effects of eating disorders can reduce one’s life expectancy. Damage to the heart and circulatory system can increase the risk of heart attacks and other potentially fatal health conditions. People with unaddressed eating disorders are up to 18 times more likely to die than their counterparts.
Eating Disorders are More Than Anorexia and Bulimia
The DSM-5 recognizes four categories of eating disorders: Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder, and Unspecified, which includes conditions such as Pica (eating non-food items), Rumination Disorder, and diabulimia. These conditions typically exist without symptoms which would categorize them as Anorexia or Bulimia.
Eating Disorders are Often Co-Occurring Disorders
Disordered eating is often a symptom of underlying issues. This can include unaddressed emotional trauma or co-occurring mental health disorders. As such, recovery from eating disorders is a comprehensive approach combining behavioral health and medical support.
Recovery IS Possible
By helping one learn to recognize the triggers for disordered eating develop, treatment focuses on empowering people with the tools necessary to overcome eating disorders. At Eating Disorder Solutions, our programs are personalized to meet the needs of each client. Our team of dietitians, medical professionals, and eating disorder specialists work directly with you to help you heal and grow into your full potential.