Sarah M. Farrell
Eating disorders are more common than many people think and can have a serious impact on your life. However, not all of our stereotypes about eating disorders are correct. In this article, I outline eight facts about eating disorders that are often unknown.
1) Not All Eating Disorders Involve Restricting Food
There are currently four distinct eating disorders. When thinking about eating disorders, people typically think of anorexia nervosa. However, there are eating disorders that, instead of restricting food, can involve binge-eating, purging, and even excessive exercise. Some statistics even show that the binge-eating disorder is more common than anorexia nervosa (National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders [ANAD], 2012).
2) Individuals with Eating Disorders are Not Always Underweight
This may come as a surprise to some, but people with eating disorders can be overweight, or, commonly, of average size and weight. When considering eating disorders, weight is not the only indicator of health; individuals can be of average weight and still have an eating disorder that puts them at grave risk.
3) Many Types of Behaviors can Indicate an Eating Disorder
Behaviors that point to the presence of an eating disorder can include the obvious ones of food restriction, purging, and binge-eating. But they can also include excessive dieting (that often starts at a young age), obsessive weight-checking behaviors, and the use of laxatives, dieting pills, or other medications, together with other individual behaviors.
4) Eating Disorders Do Not Always Involve a Disordered Relationship with Food
Much of the time, eating disorders have very little to do with food. Eating disorders commonly express an internal struggle with the self or with the individual’s environment, rather than an inherent love or hatred of food. Personality factors, family issues, a genetic component, social issues, and environmental issues can all play a role (ANAD, 2012).
5) Eating Disorders are Often Not about Weight
There are many variables that contribute to the development of an eating disorder. These can sometimes involve an issue with weight or an over-evaluation of the individual’s own size. However, eating disorders can also be about control and the need for self-efficacy (Murphy, Straebler, Cooper, & Fairburn, 2010). Up to 50 % of individuals with an eating disorder could also be diagnosed with a depressive disorder (ANAD, 2012).
6) You Don’t Have to Wait until You Develop a Clinical Eating Disorder to Get Help
Eating disorders are commonly precipitated by extreme dieting behaviors, anxiety, depression, and weight concerns. If you are concerned about your own health, or the health of someone else, know that you can get help before it goes further. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of all mental disorders (Bulick et al., 2006). So, don’t wait, but rather get help. Any of our therapists at Tacoma Christian Counseling would be happy to begin this journey with you.
7) Eating Disorders are More Common than You Think
On college campuses, as many as 25 % of female students describe binge-eating and purging behaviors as a technique for managing their weight (ANAD, 2012). This does not mean that they have an eating disorder, but it does demonstrate the prevalence of symptomatology related to eating disorders. Among adolescents with chronic conditions, anorexia is the third most common (ANAD, 2012). It is estimated that up to 30 million individuals in the United States have an eating disorder (ANAD, 2012).
8) Getting Better is Possible
Of these 30 million individuals, it is likely that only one out of 10 will get any form of treatment (ANAD, 2012). However, with treatment it is possible to get better (Keel & Brown, 2010).
Christian Counseling to Overcome Eating Disorders
As a Christian counselor, I have been privileged to work with many people who struggle with eating disorders and have witnessed that recovery is possible. If you think that you, or someone you love, may have an eating disorder, Christian counseling can provide a safe space in which to face your fears and address what is causing your behavior.
=Bulick, C. M., Sullivan, P. F., Tozzi, F., Furberg, H., Lichtenstein, P., & Pedersen, N. L. (2006). Prevalence, heritability, and prospective risk factors for eating disorders. Archives of General Psychiatry, 63(3), 305-312. http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/archpsyc.63.3.305
=Keel, P. K., & Brown, T. A. (2010). Update on course and outcome in eating disorders. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 43(3), 195-204. http://dx.doi.org/ 10.1002/eat.20810
=Murphy, R., Straebler, S., Cooper, Z., & Fairburn, C. G. (2010). Cognitive behavioral therapy for eating disorders. The Psychiatric Clinics of Northern America, 33(3), 611-627. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.psc.2010.04.004
=National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (2012). Eating disorder statistics. Retrieved from http://www.anad.org/get-information/about-eating-disorders/eating-disorders-statistics/Photos
“Woman in Contemplation,” courtesy of Ravi Roshan, unsplash.com; “Food,” courtesy of Ali Inay, Unsplash.com