Ranking Eating Disorders
According to the Multi-Service Eating Disorders Association (MEDA), eating disorders are extremely common among teens and those in their 20s. In the United States alone, anorexia is ranked the third most common chronic illness among adolescents. For individuals of all ages, chronic diseases also include arthritis, asthma, cancer, diabetes heart disease and oral diseases.
Among eating disorders, approximately 1% of all women will suffer from anorexia nervosa during their lifetime, and 1-4% percent of all women will have bulimia nervosa. While eating disorders are often seen as a new type of illness, history dates these diseases back to the 19th century when forms of self-starvation were used to lose weight.
Culture and Eating Disorders
Eating disorders can affect men and women of any culture and any age group; however, they are typically associated with white upper-socioeconomic groups. Other studies suggest individuals within Jewish, Catholic and Italian cultures are predisposed to eating disorders because of the importance they place on mealtimes and food.
Individuals with eating disorders are at high risk for cardiac complications, which can lead to sudden death. Patients with eating disorders such as anorexia lose fatty tissue as well as skeletal and muscle mass. Loss of mass of the heart muscle can cause the heart to become weak and lead to congestive heart failure and possibly death. Close to 80% of all individuals with anorexia report some type of cardiac event due to the condition. These events include arrhythmias, hypotension and tachycardia.
Approximately half of the deaths associated with anorexia nervosa are sudden cardiac deaths due to cardiac arrhythmias. The exact cause is not known, but it is suspected to be a result of electrolyte disturbances, especially low potassium and magnesium. Generally, cardiac disorders go away when the patient seeks treatment and begins to gain weight, but untreated disorders increase the patients’ risk of death. Because of the risk of sudden death, eating disorders are one of the deadliest of all mental illnesses.
People with an eating disorder are often at a higher risk of death by suicide. This is because the condition causes a wide variety of health and mental issues. The rate of suicide for individuals with eating disorders is higher than those with any other mental health disorder, including schizophrenia and depression.
The type of treatment needed for an eating disorder depends on the type and the symptoms an individual has. Usually, psychotherapy, nutrition, medication and medical monitoring are required to help someone fully recover. Unfortunately, many individuals do not seek treatment for the condition because they feel like they can recover on their own. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, only one-third of those with anorexia, 43% with bulimia and 44% with binge-eating disorder ever seek treatment specifically for their eating disorder. Women with bulimia tend to seek treatment more often than men, but men with anorexia often seek treatment more than women. In the same study, around 50 to 63% of men and women with eating disorders received treatment for some type of emotional problem at some point in their lives.
Global Eating Disorder Statistics
According to the Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness, more than 70 million people worldwide and 24 million Americans have been diagnosed or display symptoms of an eating disorder. Outside of the United States, eating disorders are less common, especially in cultures where curves and plumpness are considered more attractive due to its association with fertility, prosperity and economic security. In Muslim societies where women have more restrictive social roles, there are lower rates of eating disorders.
Demographics of the Disorder
There are both male and female differences with eating disorders. Men tend to suffer from alcohol and substance abuse while women are most likely to suffer from eating disorders and depression. In fact, one in five women suffer from some type of eating disorder, and of those, 90% are between the ages of 12 and 25. In men, 40% of male football players had some type of eating disorder, and one in 10 individuals with anorexia or bulimia were male.
A dual diagnosis is when someone has been diagnosed with some sort of eating disorder and displays symptoms of another co-morbid disease or substance abuse disorder. It’s not uncommon for someone who has an eating disorder and depression to be treated for one or the other condition but not both. Because one disorder is often the cause of the other, treatment of one condition only often leads to a relapse. Some types of co-occurring issues may include depression, PTSD, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder and self-injury.
Public Perception of Eating Disorders
In spite of the risks of eating disorders, many people feel like the disease is not as serious as it is. In fact, many Americans think eating disorders are simply a cry for attention. Others think that whether someone wants to lose weight or wants to remain skinny is a personal choice and all that has to be done to remedy the situation is to start eating normally. When dating, some people agreed that a partner with an eating disorder would be more attractive, and others stated they wouldn’t date someone with a mental illness but would date someone with an eating disorder.
There are also many misconceptions about the treatment and recovery of eating disorders. One of the most common responses to someone with an eating disorder is “just eat something.” Also, many people think once a person with an eating disorder begins to gain weight or gets to a normal weight then he or she is cured.
Health Care Costs
According to doctors and insurance companies, eating disorders are often associated with greater health care costs. This is due to the havoc an eating disorder causes throughout the body. Those who sought treatment had greater annual health care costs than those without eating disorders due to more frequent doctor visits, specialists and chronic condition care. Individuals with eating disorders often experience greater absenteeism and loss of productivity, which results in lower wages and the inability to seek proper treatment.
If you have an eating disorder and you aren’t sure where to turn, start by calling one of our experienced counselors 24/7 at FHE Health at (844) 299-0618 for help. We can answer any questions you have about eating disorder treatment and help you start on your path to a better, healthier life today.