Eating disorders have the highest risk of death from any mental illness. Eating disorders affect all genders, all races and all ethnic groups. Next week we will celebrate National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. This annual event aims to educate the public about eating disorders and providing hope and support to affected people and their families.
With the theme of See the Change, Be the Change, it's the perfect time to share 10 surprising facts about eating disorders. The factors that cause eating disorders are complex and not well understood. Current research suggests that approximately 40 to 60% of the risk of anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder is genetically influenced. Chance and bad luck play a role, and individuals vary in their genetic risk.
Eating disorders are often dismissed as diseases of choice and vanity, or the consequence of a deliberate adoption of an extreme diet. Even despite all the common preventive measures, people with extremely high genetic risks may eventually develop an eating disorder after just one or two otherwise harmless triggering events. The rate of children under 12 years of age admitted to a hospital for eating disorders increased by 119 percent in less than a decade. The most common diagnosis of eating disorder is “Other Specified Eating Disorder (OSFED)”.
Treatment of eating disorders encompasses a combination of strategies, including psychological counseling, nutritional counseling, family therapy and, in some cases, antidepressant medications. Eating disorders are mental illnesses that can be fatal if left untreated and from which it is difficult to recover; however, many women have successfully recovered and have gone on to live full and satisfying lives. Treating these disorders works to change these thoughts and behaviors, but these changes don't happen right away, but it takes time. The common message is expected to challenge myths and stigma, increase understanding and compassion for people with eating disorders, and help pave the way for greater access to appropriate treatment.
While the media often portray eating disorder diagnoses of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, it is much more common to have a diagnosis that does not fall into one of these categories. Other people with a low genetic risk can escape an eating disorder despite being exposed to numerous environmental risk factors. These costs are just economic costs, meaning they come from things like lost productivity and treatment costs. This staggering number means that doctors who treat eating disorders must also be highly trained in treating these common comorbidities.
Unfortunately, persistent myths around eating disorders make it difficult for people with eating disorders to get the help they need to fully recover.