Eating Disorders: A Scary Truth.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), "There is a commonly held view that eating disorders are a lifestyle choice" (2016).
That couldn't be further from the truth. Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder, which afflict both girls and boys, "are actually serious and often fatal illnesses that cause severe disturbances to a person's eating behaviors" (NIMH, 2016).
In fact, according to Heather Monroe, US News & World Report contributor, "Diagnoses of eating disorders, specifically anorexia nervosa, carry the highest death rate of all mental health disorders," largely because of the higher-than-average suicide rate and medical complications attributed to eating disorder sufferers (2018).
"For females between 15 and 24 years old who suffer from anorexia, the mortality rate associated with the illness is 12 times higher than the death rate of all other causes of death" (Monroe, 2018).
The NIMH reports, "Researchers are finding that eating disorders are caused by a complex interaction of genetic, biological, behavioral, psychological, and social factors" (2016).
According to the National Eating Disorders Association, research also shows it is "increasingly clear that media does indeed contribute and that exposure to and pressure exerted by media increase body dissatisfaction and disordered eating" (2016).
Online "pro-ana" and "pro-mia" sites go so far as to actively encourage and model disordered eating behaviors associated with anorexia and bulimia. An Indiana University study that included interviews with regular pro-ana bloggers found many of those bloggers felt the websites in effect granted permission for them to continue with their eating disorder (Monroe, 2018).
Early detection of behaviors in children and youth that may indicate a higher risk for developing an eating disorder, such as body dissatisfaction and signs of depression, are key to heading off this mental illness before it can take hold. "As with all mental health conditions, keen attention, early assessment, and comprehensive treatment can save lives and end suffering for our children and teens," said Monroe (2018).
To learn more about the signs and symptoms, risk factors, and treatments for eating disorders, visit the National Institute of Mental Health's Eating Disorders information page at nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/eating-disorders/index.shtml#part_145410.
Monroe, H. (2018, January 4). The truth about eating disorders. US News & World Report. Retrieved from https://health.usnews.com/health-care/for-better/articles/2018-01-04/the-truth-about-teen-eating-disorders
National Eating Disorders Association. (2016). Media, body image, and eating disorders. Retrieved from nationaleatingdisorders.org/media-body-image-and-eating-disorders
National Institute of Mental Health. (2016, February). Eating disorders. Retrieved from nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/eating-disorders/index.shtml#part_145412