To some, an eating disorder might seem like a confusing disease. If you don’t eat, you’ll die — so just eat. Seems easy enough to understand, right? Unfortunately, this type of logic is what makes eating disorders of all types so complicated. In the United States alone, 24 million people of all genders and ages suffer from either anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or binge eating. The D.S.M.-5 recognizes eating disorders as a form of mental illness that has the highest mortality rate of any other mental illness.
There are three types of recognized eating disorders:
1. Anorexia nervosa: This causes people to obsess over how much they eat. Oftentime, they attempt to lose weight far below what is recommended for their height and age. They usually starve themselves or exercise excessively.
2. Bulimia Nervosa: People with bulimia can suffer in two ways. Purging bulimia: Some people binge eat and then purge their food by either inducing vomiting or using laxatives. Nonpurging bulimia: People suffering from this form of bulimia either use strict dieting after they binge, or they exercise excessively.
3. Binge Eating: This means that you consume large amounts of food, and according to the Mayo Clinic, it’s more than eating a few extra cookies at Christmas. “For some people, overeating crosses the line to binge-eating disorder and it becomes a regular occurrence, usually done in secret.” This oftentime leads to embarrassment and stress.
The term anorexia was first coined by Sir William Gull. According to Karger, examples of self-starvation date as far back as the Hellenistic era. “People who were described as holy anorexics abused their bodies, rejected marriage and sought religious asylum where many perished and became saints.”
According to NIH Medline Plus and Dr. Cynthia Bulik, director of the eating disorders program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, women are at a higher risk to suffer from some sort of eating disorder: “There are such extraordinary pressures on us not to let age show on our body," she said. "So, we are seeing more women caught up in extreme behaviors, and it's those behaviors that can trigger an eating disorder in a vulnerable individual."
The biggest battle that society faces when it comes to mental illness, especially eating disorders, is recognizing it as an actual disease. This might be attributed to the lack of correct information out there combined with the glamorization of thinness on social media forums and in advertising. Here are a few facts from the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (AAND) to help you better understand eating disorders.
1. Most bulimics are women — approximately 85 to 90 percent.
2. Only one in 10 men and women with eating disorders receive treatment.
3. Eighty-one percent of 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat.
4. Men are less likely to seek treatment for eating disorders because of the perception that the disorders only affect women.
5. Only 35 percent of people that receive treatment for eating disorders get treatment at a specialized facility for eating disorders.
6. Mortality rates: four percent for anorexia nervosa, 3.9 percent for bulimia nervosa, 5.2 percent for eating disorder not otherwise specified.
If you or someone you know is suffering from any of these diseases, health professionals recommend that they seek help. Click here for more information: AAND.