The stereotype is that an eating disorder is a lifestyle choice started by the desire to lose weight. There are so many things wrong in that statement. 1) Eating disorders aren’t lifestyle choices. It is a disease. A disease that doesn’t discriminate against age, gender, race, social status, etc. A disease that, if left untreated, can be fatal. A disease that no one would choose on their own. 2) Eating disorders aren’t solely about the desire to lose weight. Of course that plays a part in it, but, in the realm of it all, a very small part.
- Low self-esteem
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Poor body image
- Genetic predisposition
- Transitions in life (i.e. going to college, starting high school/middle school, getting married/divorced, moving to a different city, living on your own for the first time, etc.)
Everyone’s ED starts in a different way. I met tons of people in treatment, but no two people had the same story. All of the list above are risk factors for eating disorders. Every single one of those can become what we call in treatment, “triggers.” Typically, though, a combination of these are what will eventually lead to the ED developing. Triggers are things that set off the Ed voice. The need to be perfect leads to Ed telling you to go exercise. Your horrible anxiety leads to Ed telling you skipping lunch will calm your nerves. The negative way you look at yourself in the mirror leads to Ed telling you to purge.
One huge stereotype is that it only affects girls – specifically high school/early 20s. As I said before it doesn’t discriminate against gender, age, social status, race, etc. In fact, 10% of all sufferers are male, and that number is rising. However, males are less likely to seek treatment because it is a “woman’s disease.” There’s the stigma that only females have EDs, so they are often taken less seriously by society. Sometimes they don’t even recognize the symptoms because they don’t think it’ll happen to them.
There are some warning signs to look for:
- Comments on being “fat” or anything along those lines
- Extreme focus on food and/or body
- Wearing baggy clothes to hide body
- Avoiding social situations – hanging out with friends, going out to dinner, etc.
- Evidence of binges
- Evidence of purging
- Rigid and excessive exercising
- Eating very small amounts at a time or skipping meals all together
- Large intake of water or gum and mints
That’s not to say that those are the only warning signs, but they are the most common and a good place to start! An average of 10-15% of the US population suffers from an eating disorder, and it has the highest mortality rates of any mental illness. Only 10% of people with an eating disorder will get the help they need for it, which leaves 9 out of 10 people to suffer in silence.
I saw a statistic earlier this week that said 81% of ten year olds are afraid of being fat. That’s 8 out of every 10 fourth and fifth graders are scared of being overweight. 10 year olds are supposed to have fun playing with friends and running around outside. Not worrying about being fat. Our society is one that is very concerned about what your body looks like. The “perfect” body is everywhere. You see the celebrities on the cover of the magazines with toned bodies, the “lose weight quick with (fill in the blank).” People are worried about the obesity in America, which only puts extra emphasis on food and body image. It’s not a surprise that kids pick up early on that they need to look like a certain body type when in reality very few people actually, naturally look like it. (2% of the US population do.) According to a study, 60% of teenagers compare themselves to models in magazines making them feel insecure about their bodies. I think it’s time for that to change!
Sorry this post is kind of a scattered mess….I haven’t done as well as I was intending to this week with posts, but the week just got away from me! Thus why I had a lot of information to cram into one! Although, how I see it, any awareness is better than none!