Top Ten Eating Disorder Facts in the United States

Nearly 5-10 million people in the United States suffer from eating disorders.

There are several types of this condition and in most of the cases the cause remains known. Psychological and genetic origins cannot be ruled out. DSM or Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is a guideline followed by doctors in the United States to diagnose and treat these conditions. It is published by the American Psychiatric Association. In spite of eating disorders are being psychological in nature, many of these disorders not included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). This manual is published by the American Psychiatric Association and guide the doctors in the United States and other parts of the world too in diagnosis and treatment.

Eating disorder facts should be known to the people in order to deal with the complications better. Many insurance agencies refer to the DSM for either including or excluding certain eating disorders from the list of ailments covered by them. Awareness of not only the medical aspects but also the issues related to insurance coverage of these disorders can prove useful in the long run.

Disordered eating behaviours is reported in sixty-five percent (three out of four) of American women between the ages of 25 and 45 according to a research survey carried out in April 2008 by the Self Magazine with the help of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Symptoms of eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder are found in another 10 percent of women. It means that 75 percent of women in this country suffer from negative thoughts related to food and their body.

Top Ten Eating Disorder Facts in the United States

1. Binge eating disorder, anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are the most common forms of this complication affecting the physical and emotional health of the patients.
2. 5-10 million females and 1 million males are estimated to be affected by eating disorders in this country.
3. The causes of these disorders are complex, not understood well and the consequences are severe even leading to death.
4. Symptoms of eating disorders start becoming apparent even before the birth of the baby and continue to vary in severity through out the life of the patient.
5. Child abuse, social isolation, parental influence, peer and cultural pressure are some of the environmental factors which play a vital role in development and sustainence of these conditions.
6. Low self-esteem, depression, a need to be accepted, anxiety, inability to deal with emotions & personal issues are some of the common causes in both men and women patients of eating disorders.
7. Alcohol abuse, substance abuse, self injury and suicide are common among patients suffering from eating disorders.
8. Acne, tooth lose, diarrhea, kidney failure, constipation and osteoporosis are some of the complications associated with this ailment.
9. According to the American Family Physician, the most powerful tool for diagnosing eating disorders is the medical history of the patients.
10. The treatment of eating disorders depend on the type and severity of the condition. Due to the lack of coverage of these disorders by insurance companies, the treatment is expensive and the full recovery rate lies any where between 50- 85 percent.

Eating disorder facts are hard to find as relatively less number of research studies are carried out on the topic. Moreover, most of the studies cannot come out with conclusive findings much to the frustration of the researchers and the patients.

What are the prevalent eating disorders?

Anorexia Nervosa
‘Anorexia’ in Greek means ‘lack of appetite’. Low body weight and distortion of body image complicates this eating disorder. People suffering from the ‘Anorexia Nervosa’ has a fear of weight gain.

Bulimia Nervosa
This eating disorder is often called as ‘Bulimia’. The person suffering from ‘Bulimia Nervosa’ eats a lot of food within very short time followed with purging and guilt pangs.

Binge Eating
Episodes of uncontrolled, impulsive and continuous eating are typical characteristics of Binge eating. The person suffering from this eating disorder tend to eat beyond feeling full.

Anorexia Athletica
A person suffering ‘Anorexia Athletica’ do not feels obligated to do exercises or indulge in physical activities to the extent of overdoing it.

Over Exercise
Over exercise is compulsive exercising. It can be problematic when a person starts building their life around exercises.

Over Eating
This disorder is all about compulsion to consume more food. This is called bingeing. Person suffering from over eating Disorder compels to eat lots of calories at once.

Night Eating
This is a syndrome characterized by consuming more food at night and loosing hunger or urge to eat during the day. Agitation and Insomnia are also common.

‘Orthorexia Nervosa’ is quite rare eating disorder. People suffering from this disorder tend to stick eating proper food only.

Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified
When a person struggles with thoughts, behaviours and feelings of eating disorder, but does not share any symptom of Anorexia or bulimia, he is said to have suffering from EDNOS (Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified).

Food Refusal
Many young children refuse to eat their food. This occurs due to changes in their appetite and sometimes, likes and dislikes of certain tastes also keep changing with their age.

Bigorexia is not a medical condition and very little has been known about this till now. According to psychiatrists, this is opposite to Anorexia. It is also known as Muscle Dysmorphia or reverse Anorexia. This is typically seen in body building circles where the sufferer is always worried thinking he is too small. This condition can get worsen when people start going into any extent to increase their muscle mass.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder
Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is a strong obsession to the idea of being defective in visual appearance. It can be a slight defect or imperfection or can also be fully imagined. The sufferer’s mind gets preoccupied with the thought of looking abnormal or odd. This leads to depression and can get very severe. Generally physical attributes such as a large nose, lentigo (small brownish spot on skin), blotchy skin, acne, scars or wrinkles are common causes but excessive weight is also increasingly becoming a popular reason of this ailment.

Sleep Eating Disorder
Sleep Eating Disorder falls into the category of sleep related disorders. It is a combination of sleeping and eating problems. Frequent night walking and eating food like fries, sweets and other calorie laden substances is a common symptom. Hence, sufferers of this condition are are generally overweight. They tend to become compulsive about overeating.

Prader-Willi Syndrome
This is a congenital condition (present at birth). Prader-Willi Syndrome is caused by presence of abnormal genes. Sufferers have an insatiable appetite. This lead them to eat anything they come across. They can even grab their pet food and or devour spoiled foods.

Pica is a compulsive craving for eating, licking and chewing non-food items (inedible items) which have zero nutrition. Chalks, paint chips, plaster, baking soda, glue, starch, coffee grounds, ice, rust or cigarette ashes are most common names in this disorder.

Restricting Food
The common name for restricting eating behaviors is Dieting. The sufferer generally skip meals or manage excuses to avoid eating.

Why Awareness about the Signs of Eating Disorders is Essential?

These symptoms are easily misdiagnosed and signs of any one type might mimic those of the other. Even if the disorder is identified correctly, the treatment is quite expensive and only partially effective.

Insurance companies also go by the DSM manual to include a disorder under their coverage. Many of the disorders are not mentioned in this manual. As a result, patients suffering from these eating disorders have to support the costly treatment on their own. Knowledge of the signs can initiate early diagnosis, commencement of treatment and early recovery.

According to the journal American Family Physician, the best way of diagnosing these conditions is by carefully listening to the medical history of the patients. The patients or their dear ones can make the doctor understand the signs only out of their awareness on them and through careful observation.

Signs of Eating Disorders

  • Observing discretion with the kind of food taken
  • Fear of gaining weight or becoming obese
  • Self induced vomiting
  • Picking at food
  • Rapid changes in weight
  • Skipping meals as a weight loss technique
  • Excessive exercising even when seriously underweight
  • Binge eating
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Low self esteem
  • Loneliness
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Constipation
  • Acne
  • Tooth loss

Apart from the above mentioned signs, there are several associated complications and risks with eating disorders.

Treatment for Eating Disorder

Different approaches of treatment are present to treat eating disorders. The appropriate method for a person is selected based on the signs and symptoms, severity, strength and issues of the disorder. All treatments aim at addressing the physical and psychological aspects. One therapy or a combination of therapies may be used as per the requirement by the physician.

The following therapies are used to treat Eating Disorders:

This type of treatment aims at exploring the issues within oneself, improving the self esteem and learning healthy ways to cope with pain, stress and any other emotional abnormality that tends to make one eat more. Psychotherapy will also reveal awareness about the effects of eating disorder on family and others.

Nutritional Counseling
Nutritionists or dietitians use this type of treatment plans to treat eating disorders. They allow you to plan your own healthy meal, set up own dietary goals, and get a healthy weight. They also educate about basic nutrition and effects of eating disorders.

Support Groups
Going for support groups for eating disorders can help you overcome your shame and loneliness brought about due to your eating disorders. The support providers act as your peers rather than any professionals. They provide a very safe and a secure environment for treatment and teaching you coping strategies. They use encouragement, friendly advises and easy sharing of thoughts and experience as a mode of treatment.

Residential Treatment
Residential treatment is also called ‘Hospital-based care’. This may be required when severe physical problems and extreme behaviors are seen in patients. Doctor’s supervision and counselling is extremely important in these cases.

Adolescents and Eating Disorder

The highest number of eating disorder is registered in the adolescent age category. However, eating disorder is found in all age groups. People who discover that they have eating disorder later in life become conscious that it all started in their adolescence. As a parent, you need to first admit that your adolescent can suffer from an eating disorder. It can be very difficult for you to accept that your adolescent has an eating disorder. Parents always jump to a conclusion that, it is all their fault if their teenager is having an eating disorder. There are many other reasons behind your teenager suffering from an eating disorder which are out of control.

5 Ways to Deal with Eating Disorder in Adolescence

  • As you know your adolescent is suffering from an eating disorder, keep a check on his/her eating habits. Talk to your teenager about the risks involved in an eating disorder.
  • You must understand that an eating disorder is common. You must convince your child and make them agree to follow the strict eating habits.
  • Genetics and environmental factors also play a important role in eating disorders. Children are more prone to eating disorder when they have gone through physical, mental, emotional and sexual abuse.
  • As soon as you observe that your teenager is having eating disorder symptoms, take him immediately to your physician. Do not delay.
  • Lead by example.Be a good role model to your teenager in order to prevent eating disorder. Establish healthy eating practises for everyone at home.It will do good to all of you.

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