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Critical Analysis of Eating Disorder Statistics

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Eating disorders are complex and devastating medical condition that can have serious consequences for one’s mental and physical health, productivity, and relationships. It is not a choice, a fad, or a phase, but a real and very serious condition. This sample health statistics paper focuses on the problem and causes.

Eating disorders: The facts

Thirty million men and women in the United States suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their lives (“Get the Facts on Eating Disorders” 2015). These can include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. Many also suffer from sub-clinical disordered eating behaviors.

The number one contributor to these conditions is body satisfaction. This unhappiness with our bodies begins early. According to a study done by Exter University of 37,500 young women between the ages of twelve and fifteen, almost 60% said that their appearance is the biggest concern. The study also found that more than half of those girls who had low self-esteem were already dieting (“Statistics: How Many People Have Eating Disorders?”). 

Furthermore, more than half of teenaged girls are currently on diets or think that they should be. They are flooded with edited media images, underweight celebrities, and constant scrutiny, which contribute greatly to these self-esteem issues and unhealthy relationships with food (Fitzgibbon and Stolley). These eating disorders come with devastating health concerns and problems and affect a wide variety of people in some very serious ways.

The study also found that more than half of those girls who had low self-esteem were already dieting (“Statistics: How Many People Have Eating Disorders?”). Furthermore, more than half of teenaged girls are currently on diets or think that they should be. They are flooded with edited media images, underweight celebrities, and constant scrutiny, which contribute greatly to these self-esteem issues and unhealthy relationships with food (Fitzgibbon and Stolley). These eating disorders come with devastating health concerns and problems and affect a wide variety of people in some very serious ways.

Additional Reading: Learn more about dieting and eating disorders.

Anorexia Nervosa one of America's most common eating disorders

Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder that his characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss. Symptoms of anorexia include inadequate food intake leading to startlingly low weight, intense fear of or obsession with gaining weight, and the inability to understand the seriousness of the condition (“Anorexia Nervosa”). There are two kinds of anorexia.

The first is binge-eating/purging, in which the patient binge eats and then purges their system through forcing themselves to vomit or from taking laxatives and the second is restricting, in which the patient does not eat or purge. The cycle of self-starvation that marks anorexia nervosa causes the body to be deprived of nutrients essential to healthy body function. The body is then forced to slow down all of its processes in an effort to conserve energy.

This causes the heart rate and blood pressure to slow, a reduction in bone density, muscle loss, dry hair and skin, hair loss, fainting, fatigue, dehydration, kidney failure, and growth of a downy layer of hair called lanugo which grows to keep the body warm (“Anorexia Nervosa”). Some warning signs of anorexia include dramatic weight loss, a preoccupation with food and dieting, denial of hunger, obsessive fear of gaining weight, excuses for avoiding mealtimes, withdrawal from friends and activities, etc.

Mortality rate

Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of all psychiatric disorders. Approximately one out of one hundred young women between the ages of ten and twenty are starving themselves (“Statistics: How Many People Have Eating Disorders?”), meaning that a minimum of 1% of women have suffered from anorexia at some point in their lives.

An estimated 5-20% of individuals with anorexia eventually die due to complications from the disease (“Eating Disorder Statistics & Research”). Though women make up at least 90% of anorexia sufferers, men are not immune to anorexia nervosa and make up a tenth of those with the disease (“Anorexia Nervosa”). Unfortunately, only one-third of those suffering from anorexia will end up seeking and receiving any sort of treatment for their condition.

Bulimia nervosa eating disorder a concern in America

Bulimia is an equally as threatening condition that is characterized by a cycle of binge eating and compensatory practices like vomiting to counteract the effects of the eating. Symptoms of bulimia nervosa include frequently consuming large amounts of food followed by behaviors like self-induced vomiting or taking laxatives, feeling like you are out of control during periods of binge eating, and extreme self-consciousness over body image (“Bulimia Nervosa”).

Chances of recovery increase the sooner the condition is detected. Some warning signs associated with bulimia include evidence of binge eating, evidence of purging, obsessive or excessive exercise regimen, swelling of the cheeks or jaw, discoloration of teeth, calluses on the back of hands and knuckles from inducing vomiting, and withdrawal from friends and usual activities.

Health concerns

There are several negative health effects that can occur as a result of bulimia: electrolyte imbalances that can lead to irregular heartbeats, heart failure, or death; dehydration, potential gastric rupture, rupture of the esophagus, tooth decay and staining, chronic irregular bowel movements or constipation, peptic ulcers, and pancreatic (“Get the Facts on Eating Disorders” 2015). 1-2% of adolescent and young-adult women and 4% of college-aged women suffer from bulimia (“Statistics: How Many People Have Eating Disorders?”).

About half of people who have been anorexic eventually develop bulimic patterns. Because people with bulimia are secretive about their conditions, it can be hard to gather information about the frequency of bulimia. 80% of bulimia nervosa sufferers are women (“Bulimia Nervosa”). Patients suffering from bulimia nervosa appear to be of average body weight. Unlike anorexia, bulimia sufferers recognize that their behaviors are unusual and dangerous, hence the secrecy. The condition is frequently associated with depression and can cause an increased risk of death from suicide or medical complications. The disorder also is caused by society's perception of women.

Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating disorder is characterized by reoccurring episodes of eating large amounts of food very quickly and often to the point of discomfort, feeling out of control, shame, distress, or guilt about it, and sometimes using unhealthy purging methods to counteract the binge eating. Binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder, affecting almost 4% of women and 2% of men (“Binge Eating Disorder”).

Previously listed as a subcategory of Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified in the DSM-IV, it is now recognized as a diagnosable eating disorder. To be diagnosed with binge eating disorder, one must experience recurrent episodes of binge eating, characterized by eating a huge amount of food in a two hour period and a sense of lack of control over eating. The episodes are associated with eating more rapidly than normal, eating until uncomfortably full, eating when not hungry, feeling depression or guilt after eating (“Binge Eating Disorder”).

Causes acute depression

Sufferers will also experience distress over their binge eating and episodes at least once a week for three months. Binge eating is not associated with the recurrent use of compensatory behaviors, like purging, and is not exclusive to bulimia or anorexia (“Binge Eating Disorder”), as patients can suffer from binge eating but share no other characteristics of the other two.

Individuals with binge eating disorder also display distinct emotional, behavioral, and physical characteristics. Psychologists also see this psychological effect in beauty pageant contestants. Patients will sometimes experience anger, anxiety, shame, or worthlessness before a binge and will binge as a means of relieving those negative feelings. They may also feel disgusted over their body size and experience feelings of depression. Those who suffer from binge eating disorder often have an ‘all or nothing’ way of thinking, a compulsion to be in control, difficulty expressing needs, and tries desperately to please others (“Binge Eating Disorder”).

There are also some behavioral cues that are associated with binge eating disorder. Examples of this include secretive food behaviors (eating alone or hiding wrappers), disruption in normal eating behaviors (change in time of day or food choices, sporadic fasting or dieting, food rituals, etc.), periods of uncontrolled, impulsive, and rigidity with food and food intake, and major change in lifestyle to accommodate binge sessions (“Binge Eating Disorder”). Physically, body weight varies among sufferers of binge eating disorder and the condition is not always associated with weight gain.

Affects many American families

Binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder in the United States. It is estimated that up to 5% of the general population is affected. (“Binge Eating Disorder”). Women make up 60% of patients and are more likely to experience the disorder in early adulthood. Men make up the other 40% and experience binge eating disorder more commonly in midlife (“Binge Eating Disorder”). It equally affects people across all cultures, races, and social classes.

The condition is strongly tied to depression, anxiety, guilt, and shame. In addition, while it is not indicative of obesity, up to two-thirds of sufferers are obese. Obesity itself comes with several health risks. These include high blood pressure and cholesterol, heart and gallbladder disease, sleep apnea, joint pain, and type 2 diabetes (“Binge Eating Disorder”). Patients with binge eating disorder report a lower quality of life that those without the condition, as they often experience anger, shame, and guilt, in addition to depression anxiety. Many treatment providers use cognitive behavioral therapy to help reverse the negative behavior.

How do eating disorders affect health?

The study of eating disorders is relatively new. Therefore, there is no concrete information on the long-term recovery process. Available information tells us that recovery is a slow process and can take between three and five years to full recover (“Statistics: How Many People Have Eating Disorders?”).

Treatment makes a big difference in the mortality and recovery rates of those suffering from eating disorders. If they do not receive treatment, up to one-fifth of people with serious eating disorders die, while only 2-3% of patients who undergo treatment die (“Statistics: How Many People Have Eating Disorders?”). When sufferers receive treatment, about 60% of them recover from their disorder.

These individuals are able to maintain a healthy weight, eat a normal diet, participate in healthy relationships, and have successful family lives and careers. Unfortunately, however, treatment is not always a solution. 20% of people with eating disorders make only partial recoveries. These people remain too focused on weight and food and participate only peripherally with friends and romantic partners (“Statistics: How Many People Have Eating Disorders?”). They may hold jobs, but their careers are seldom meaningful and they are likely to spend a lot of their money on laxatives, diet books, exercise classes, and food.

The remaining fifth of eating disorder sufferers do not improve, even with the help of treatment. These people frequently visit emergency rooms, help programs, and mental health clinics (“Statistics: How Many People Have Eating Disorders?”). They fixate on their food and weight concerns and often experience depression, loneliness, and helplessness.

Eating disorders: End results 

This edited research paper focused on eating disorders and the facts they are very serious and highly dangerous conditions that affect a significant number of both men and women. Particularly prominent in women, these disorders are often associated with depression and anxiety and mostly stem from feeling dissatisfied with one’s own body and having low self-esteem. The three most common eating disorders- anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder- are particularly debilitating and come with serious and worrisome side effects to patients’ minds, bodies, and emotions.

Though more than half of people who suffer from these conditions eventually find relief, many do not. Those unfortunate ones are stuck with the terrible, negative feelings associated with these conditions and must continuously suffer the physical effects as well. Whether a patient is able to recover or not, having an eating disorder is undoubtedly a very daunting experience with long-lasting effects.

Works Cited

“Anorexia Nervosa.” National Eating Disorders Association. National Eating Disorders Association, 2015. Web. 02 Jan. 2016.

“Binge Eating Disorder.” National Eating Disorders Association. National Eating Disorders Association, 2015. Web. 02 Jan. 2016.

“Bulimia Nervosa.” National Eating Disorders Association. National Eating Disorders Association, 2015. Web. 02 Jan. 2016.

“Eating Disorder Statistics & Research”. Eating Disorder Hope. EHD, 2015.Web. 02 Jan 2016.

Fitzgibbon, Marian and Melinda Stolley. “Eating Disorders and Minorities”. PBS. PBS, 01 Dec. 2000. Web. 04 Jan. 2016.

“Get the Facts on Eating Disorders.” Get The Facts On Eating Disorders. The National Eating Disorder Association, 2015. Web. 02 Jan. 2016.

“Statistics: How Many People Have Eating Disorders?” Anorexia Nervosa & Related Eating Disorders. ANRED. Web. 02 Jan. 2016.

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