Over the past several decades the number of Americans struggling with eating disorders has steadily increased. A study published in 2011 indicates that approximately 20 million females and 10 million males in this country struggle with some form of an eating disorder.
The exact cause is unknown, but many scientists believe that the increase could be attributed to the spike in global westernization. Technological advances, cultural shifts, and the use of social media have drastically influenced the perception of how we see ourselves and the perception of the ideal shape and size. Our young people are constantly on social media and have limitless access to sites like Tik Tok, Snapchat, and Instagram that offer an unending stream of images defining an idea of perfection. In a world where value is defined by unrealistic expectation, there is no surprise that they begin to define their self-worth by the number of “likes” on their latest social media post. Social media compounded with the brain's inability to properly differentiate between reality and online perfection causes our young people to often find themselves making unhealthy choices in their search for acceptance.
Individuals suffering from eating disorders are at an elevated risk for suicide and/or suicidal ideations. 90% of female high school juniors and seniors admit to dieting regularly, while only 15% have a BMI in the overweight range. The onset of symptoms typically occurs during adolescence or early adulthood and is triggered by stressors that challenge the individual’s sense of personal identity and worth. It’s important to mention that eating disorders are not caused by one triggering event, but rather a complex combination of psychological, sociocultural, environmental, and biological/genetic factors. Those at the highest risk most often have a history of trauma, perfectionistic personality type, low conflict resolution skills, or participate in elite athletics or activities that promote thinness. Individuals that have other behavioral health diagnoses such as anxiety, depression or OCD are also at a much higher risk of developing an eating disorder.
Individuals suffering from Anorexia typically have an obsessive fear of gaining weight and an unrealistic perception of body image. Those suffering from Anorexia will severely restrict caloric intake to avoid gaining weight.
- Deliberate self-starvation
- Intense fear of gaining weight that leads to restrictive eating
- Continuous dieting
- Hair loss
- Dry skin
- Absent or irregular periods
- Compulsive exercise
Individuals suffering with Bulimia typically binge eat and then participate in behaviors that compensate for the overeating, such as vomiting, excessive exercise, and the use of laxatives and diuretics.
- Preoccupation with food
- Binge-eating, usually done in secret
- Vomiting after eating
- Abuse of diet pills, laxatives, or diuretics
- Compulsive exercise
- Broken blood vessels in the eyes
- Erosion of tooth enamel
Binge Eating Disorder
Individuals suffering from this disorder typically lose control over the amount of food they consume. Unlike Bulimia Nervosa, individuals with binge eating disorder tend to not compensate for the extra caloric intake which typically leads to obesity and other negative health conditions.
- Increased eating speed
- Eating until uncomfortable
- Consuming large amounts of food when not hungry
- Eating in solitude to cover feelings related to portion control
- Feelings of disgust with oneself because of appearance
If you believe your child may be struggling with an eating disorder, seek professional help now! Talk to your child’s primary healthcare provider about your concerns and how these choices could be impacting their overall health. During this appointment, discuss the potential benefits of seeking services from a mental health professional.
The mental health professional will complete a comprehensive evaluation to assess severity and symptomology and rule out other feeding and eating conditions that could mimic an actual eating disorder. After the assessment, the mental health professional will work with the individual and their family to create a treatment plan to alleviate the symptoms of the disorder.
If you are facing stress and pressure from a past or current eating disorder, PPCD is here to help. Contact one of our mental health professionals today to Get Started.