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EATING DISORDERS: GENERAL INFORMATION AND STATISTICS
 

What is an Eating Disorder?

General Information

Quick Facts about Eating Disorders
 
What is an Eating Disorder?

An eating disorder is characterized by using food as an unhealthy coping mechanism to deal with emotional issues.  Eating disorders have adverse psychological, social, and medical consequences, and can be fatal. The most common types of eating disorders are:

  • Anorexia Nervosa – Refusal to maintain a healthy body weight, intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat even though underweight, using restrictive methods in order to control weight.
  • Bulimia Nervosa – Bingeing on excessive amounts of food in a short period of time, followed by purging methods such as vomiting, starving, extreme exercise regimens, diuretics, or laxatives.  Feeling a lack of control over eating during the bingeing episode.
  • Binge-Eating Disorder - Bingeing on excessive amounts of food in a short period of time and feeling a lack of control over eating during the bingeing episode.  Purging behaviors do not occur after the bingeing episode.
  • Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS)  - Disorders of eating that do not meet the criteria for any specific eating disorder listed above.

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General Information

Eating disorders are among the leading health problems in the United States. Typically diagnosed during adolescence, initial symptoms of eating disorders “are becoming more prevalent … in elementary and middle school years” (White, 2000). The most common eating disorders - anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and binge eating -involve issues and behaviors around body image distortions, food, and interpersonal relationships. Eating disorders are serious, complex, and sometimes fatal.

Throughout the United States, as many as 5 - 10 million adolescent girls and women and nearly 1 million boys and men are struggling with eating disorders (National Eating Disorders Association, 2001). In the past it was believed that the population at risk was affluent, young girls. More recent research reveals that risk factors for eating disorders are much broader and multifaceted (Marshall, 1998; ANRED 2002; White, 2000),

  • Biologic risk factors: affective disorders, chemical deficiencies, endocrine abnormalities
  • Individual risk factors: age (elementary through college age), low self-esteem, identity issues, gender
  • Family risk factors: conflict avoidance, boundary issues, and dysfunctional patterns
  • Cultural risk factors: emphasis on thinness, chronic dieting, and dissatisfaction with body

Quoted from the National Association of School Nurses
Issue Brief
School Health Nursing Services Role in Health Care

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Quick Facts about Eating Disorders
  • 10% of eating disorders begin by the age of 10
  • 32% of eating disorders begin between the ages of 11 and 15
  • 44% of eating disorders begin between the ages of 16 and 20
  • 10% of patients with anorexia and 1% of those with bulimia will die as a result
  • 1.7 million high school girls, and more than 300,000 high school boys have anorexia or bulimia
  • Up to 50% of high school girls may be practicing disordered eating  behavior

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  Photo © Paul Kuhn
 
  Photo © Paul Kuhn
 
  Photo © Paul Kuhn