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Eating Disorders

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According to Wikipedia “eating disorders are the compulsions to eat or avoid eating that negatively affect both one’s physical and mental health. Eating disorders are all encompassing. They affect every part of a person’s life”. Other terms used to define eating disorders are ‘illness’, ‘condition’, ‘psychiatric diagnosis’, ‘psychological issue’ and ‘symptom’ of underlying problems.


What is an eating disorder?

Eating disorders are not simply a problem with food. The statistics to be found on eating disorders are frightening and claim the highest mortality rate for any mental illness. The death rate for eating disorders is high and ranges from 18% to 20%. Anorexia alone is responsible for an annual death rate 12 times higher than that of all other causes combined, for females in the 15 to 25 year old age group. And it has been so- for more than a decade.


What are the most common types of eating disorders?

Millions of North Americans suffer from one type of eating disorder or another with 95% of inflicted between the ages of 12 and 25 years. The most common forms of eating disorders are Anorexia, Bulimia and Binge Eating or Compulsive Overeating. One percent of female teens develop anorexia, a condition where people deliberately starve themselves to death. Anorexics are people who are obsessed with controlling their eating as a way of controlling their lives. Bulimia involves cycles of uncontrolled binging and purging. A person with bulimia may use more than 20 laxatives at one time. Four percent of college aged women experience bulimia and 50% of people who develop anorexia will also develop bulimia. Binge eating disorder (BED) or as it’s also known, compulsive eating is when excessive amounts of food are consumed, way beyond relation to hunger and even comfort.


Do Men also suffer from Eating Disorders?

It has been believed for at least a decade that only ten percent of males develop eating disorders but a contradictory result was found in new research from the Harvard Medical School which suggests that men now make up to 25% of those affected. This still leaves women three times more likely to experience one or more of the common types of eating disorders.


Support and Care for persons with Eating Disorders

People can and do get better with the right treatment over time. Without help, overcoming an eating disorder can be an overwhelming battle, but there are many professional resources who can offer effective support and care. Sadly only about 1 in 10 people with an eating disorder receive treatment, although 30% to 40% of people do recover with appropriate help.


For more information about Eating Disorders, including education, resources and support to those affected by eating disorders, visit the National Eating Disorders Association.