Eating disorders are some of the most severe mental health issues. According to National Eating Disorders Association, 20 million women and 10 million men will suffer from an eating disorder. And unfortunately, eating disorders have the highest mortality rate among psychiatric conditions. What is your risk of eating disorders?
Although the exact cause of eating disorders is still unknown, experts believe they result from a combination of psychological, emotional, genetic, and environmental factors.
Even though eating disorders are more commonly associated with teenage girls, more men, older women, and children are being diagnosed. For instance:
Today, anorexia, bulimia, and especially binge-eating disorder are on the rise in the male population. Anorexia is now diagnosed in boys as young as eight and a full 40% of those with binge-eating disorders are male.Eating Disorder Hope
If eating disorders are no longer specific to a particular demographic, who is at risk of developing them? Remember the following risk factors to assess whether you or a loved one may be at risk.
Many eating disorder patients report having a weak support network, fewer friends, and attending fewer social events. Even if the person has a strong support network, they may still feel isolated if they have trouble communicating negative emotions and seeking help.
People who are overly concerned with following rules and getting everything perfect may be at an increased risk.
Expressly, those more at risk often set unrealistically high expectations for themselves. Often, perfectionists also need to be in control of themselves and their environment, which may lead to added stress and frustration.
People who have struggled with bullying in the past, primarily if it was related to weight or physical appearance, are also more at risk. Bullying is such an important factor that the National Eating Disorders Association states that 60% of eating disorder patients mentioned bullying was a contributing factor in developing the disorder.
Other Mental Health Issues
An eating disorder often coexists with other conditions like anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or depression.
One of the brain chemicals that regulate mood and sleep is serotonin. But according to Healthline, serotonin may also influence eating behaviors.
Having a family member like a parent or sibling struggling with an eating disorder, addiction, or other mental health issue increases the risk of developing an eating disorder.
For this reason, parents are sometimes blamed when their children suffer from eating disorders. But family can be a positive force in the patient’s life, and their support may be crucial to preventing and treating the disorder.
Body Image Issues
When someone feels profoundly dissatisfied with their weight, body shape, and appearance, they may turn to unhealthy eating behaviors to correct this. And in many cases, they may have a distorted body image that makes them believe they are overweight even if they’re at a healthy weight.
A distorted body image may affect men as well as women. For example, some men may experience muscle dysmorphia and may be very concerned about increasing their muscle mass.
It’s very common for an eating disorder to start as a diet. However, if the diet becomes extreme, the patient may experience starvation.
The National Eating Disorders Association’s Neurotransmitters article, starvation has adverse effects on the brain. It further says that:
“it appears that one of the factors that make a person more likely to develop an eating disorder is how their brain functions turn.”
Starvation causes mood changes, anxiety, and reduced appetite. In addition, the adverse effects on the brain may reinforce restrictive eating disorder behaviors.
Eating disorders typically develop during adolescence due to hormonal changes and peer pressure. For teenagers, looking attractive or thin may be an important way to feel accepted. Therefore, teenagers are especially at risk.
Stressful events such as significant life changes or family issues may trigger the onset of an eating disorder. Other stressors may include peer pressure or unrealistic high expectations about the person’s achievements or appearance.
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