What are eating disorders?
Eating disorders are a group of conditions characterized by abnormal eating habits that may involve either insufficient or excessive food intake to the detriment of an individual’s physical and emotional health, binge eating disorder, bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa being the most common specific forms in the United States.
Reasons for eating disorders are poorly known but may vary from person to person. Factors contributing to eating disorders range from ADHD to mental health disorders to body image. Some think that peer pressure and idealized body-types seen in the media are also a significant factor.
What are some facts?
Here are is the astonishing truth:
In the United States:
- It is estimated that 8 million Americans have an eating disorder – seven million women and one million men
- One in 200 American women suffers from anorexia
- Two to three in 100 American women suffers from bulimia
- Nearly half of all Americans personally know someone with an eating disorder (Note: One in five Americans suffers from mental illnesses.)
- An estimated 10 – 15% of people with anorexia or bulimia are males
- In 2005, more than 500,000 Canadians suffered from some sort of eating disorder (Canadian Mental Health Association).
- According to a 2002 survey, 1.5% of Canadian women aged 15 – 24 years had an eating disorder.
- Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, between 18-20%
- Eating disorders are the most common chronic illnesses in the female adolescent population, with an incidence of up to 5%.
- Men are more likely to be affected by binge eating disorder than any other type of eating disorder.
- A study published in 2001 reported that 23% of adolescent females were dieting to lose weight
- According to a 2002 survey, 28% of girls in grade nine and 29% in grade ten engaged in weight-loss behaviours.
Grade-nine students already see themselves as “too fat”. According to a study, 37% of girls in grade nine and 40% in grade 10 perceived themselves as too fat.
Even those students who are normal in weight (based on their body mass index or BMI), 19% believed that they were too fat, and 12% of students reported attempting to lose weight.
Boys are not excluded from this disorder. In a survey of adolescents in grades 7-12, 25% of boys reported being teased by their peers about their weight (girls 30%).
And it doesn’t stop at school. Such teasing has been found to persist in the home as well – 29% of girls and 16% of boys reported having been teased by a family member about their weight.
Eating disorders and the Media:
Our girls are starting out way too early worrying about their weight. What is to blame?
The link between eating disorders and the media is high on the list of factors. Self-esteem becomes too closely tied to physical attributes and girls feel they can’t measure up to society standards. My article on celebrities who suffer from eating disorders shows the prevalence of body image issues in Hollywood itself.
The media, including television, movies, videos, music, magazines and the internet all portray images of girls and women in a sexual manner, such as revealing clothing, body posture and facial expressions, as models of femininity for girls to emulate. How can our young girls not be influenced if this is all they see?
What can you do?
Search for local treatment in your area.
Call or visit the website of a national organization, such as the National Eating Disorder Information Centre. Womenshealth.gov offers some great resources as does the National Eating Disorders Association and the National Institute of Mental Health.
Visit Girls Inc.
Visit Dove Self-Esteem
Visit Teens Health
Read a personal account by Sharon DeVellis
Read Part 1 on AMW here
Sources: http://www.nedic.ca/knowthefacts/statistics.shtml and Wikipedia