February 24th through March 2nd is National Eating Disorders Awareness week. An often very serious and sometimes fatal illness, eating disorders affect 20 million women and 10 million men at some point in their lives. Eating disorders are frequently a challenge to overcome; as they have biological, social and psychological aspects.
Research has found that girls of even very young ages feel a pressure to be thin, or are unhappy with their current weight. 42% of first-third graders want to be thinner and 81% of ten year olds are afraid of being fat. With these pressures and insecurities starting so young, it is not a surprise that so many women battle poor relationships with dieting, food, and body image throughout their entire lives. Specifically, 60% of middle aged women remain dissatisfied with their body.
Though not as prevalent, men are also affected by eating disorders. 10 million males will at some point in their life suffer from an eating disorder. Because of gender related stigmas related to eating disorders, this number may actually be higher as many cases may go unreported. It has been reported that 43% of men are unhappy with their body, and of those suffering from disordered eating most commonly suffer from “eating disorder not otherwise specified.”
Affecting both men and women, disordered eating encompasses a wide range of illnesses. Types include; Anorexia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder, Bulimia Nervosa, and Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. Anorexia Nervosa is comprised of starvation and drastic weight loss. Someone suffering from Binge Eating Disorder frequently radically overindulges without a counter action to balance the binge eating. Bulimia Nervosa consists of binge eating followed by a counter action such as taking laxatives or self-induced vomiting. Finally, the broadest type is Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. This type may include symptoms of various eating disorders but not quite meet the full criteria.
Counseling is most often the best treatment for eating disorders. Because of the many layers compromising disordered eating, therapy must address the individual’s psychological, physical and social struggles. If you or anyone you know suffers from disordered eating, there are many resources available to get help. More information about awareness and treatment can be found at nationaleatingdisorders.org and nedawareness.org
Source: National Eating Disorder Association. www.nationaleatingdisorders.org