NO, eating disorders are just as bad as they always have been. Due to the increasing attention paid to eating disorders, more thorough understandings of what characterizes an eating disorder, and easier access to pro-eating disorder communities, it may seem that eating disorders are getting worse.
The National Institute of Metal health reports that nearly 30 million Americans suffer from some form of an eating disorder and a quarter of these individuals suffer from a life-time prevalence never reaching full recovery. Eating disorders are lethal and are closely related to other mental health conditions including depression, anxiety, psychosis, and dementia.
In the last few years we as a profession have been forced to recognize that our classification and diagnostic criteria limited our ability to accurately identify eating disorders. Luckily the changes in the mental health field are beginning to trickle into mainstream society and more people are starting to realize that they may have an eating disorder or a poor relationship with food. In addition, the media has made more significant efforts toward the awareness an prevention of eating disorders. Conversely, advancements in technology, increased use of the internet, and engagement in social sites has given people access to sites and resources that advocate the use of disordered eating.
Historically, conversations surrounding eating disorders have predominately focused on Anorexia and Bulimia Nervosa. The lack of knowledge and information on the breadth of eating disorders contributes to the belief that eating disorders are getting worse. It's not that eating disorders are getting worse but that we are better able to identify eating disorder behaviors.
Over the years, the diagnostic criteria for eating disorders has changed revealing that there are several types of disordered eating, and eating disorders can not be classified by someone’s weight or appearance. For example, it is no longer a diagnostic requirement to be significantly over or underweight to have an eating disorder. Many people who struggle with eating disorders do not fit the "typical look,” and their eating habits are not probed any farther. It is possible to carry a “normal” weight yet participate in binge, purging, starvation, or over control techniques.
Eating disorders are classified by strict and rigid patterns of eating or exercise with an intense preoccupation with food, body weight, appearance, shape, or control. Individuals who engage in disorders eating are often very critical of themselves or their bodies. An individual who suffers from symptoms of an eating disorder may experience distressing thoughts or emotions in situations involving food or an intense preoccupation with eating or eating behaviors. Often times people who are engaging in disordered eating will rationalize or justify their behavior as a means to continue their patterns or rituals.
One of the more recent findings is eating disorders linked to an obsessive focus on eating healthy.
Orthorexia Nervosa is a specified type of eating disorder that possess characteristics that are clinically diagnosable. Unlike other forms of disordered eating individuals with Orthorexia are not concerned with aspects of body or weight. People who have Orthorexia hold extreme fixations on the “healthiness” of food or supplement and are often obsessed with the preparation or quality of food. Orthorexia is closely linked to obsessive-compulsive behavior and has significant negative consequences.
Individuals who experience Orthorexia often feel anxious about self-imposed dietary restrictions and become highly restrictive. For example, when a person will not eat anything out of a set diet because the food is not “pure enough” and become agitated if their meal time routines don't follow a certain plan. In many cases individuals with Orthorexia are fearful of illnesses or diseases caused by certain foods and may experience physical pains or somatization related to anxiety if consumed.
Common behaviors related to Orthorexia include restriction or elimination of specific foods, cleanses, detoxes, or fasts. People with Orthorexia may feel shameful about their eating behaviors and their feelings of self worth are often liked to compliance with dietary restrictions.
Eating disorders have extremely harmful consequences and significantly impact the lives of people who experience them. If your someone you love is showing signs of disordered eating please visit www.therapywithraquel.com
Raquel Buchanan is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Palm Springs, Ca. Raquel offers counseling and psychotherapy to children, teen, adults, and families. She specializes in building self-confidence and self-esteem in people who have experienced childhood trauma.
Raquel Buchanan is a mental health profession in southern California who blogs about life and relationships. Raquel is on a mission to spread awareness about the impact of violence, abuse, and trauma. The information contained on this site is for entertainment purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for professional assistance. Contents contained in these blogs are based on true stories or the experiences of several several people and are fictional. Identifying information has been changed to protect the anonymity and confidentiality of therapy patients.