The Prevalence of Eating Disorders - A Review of the Literature

The Prevalence of Eating Disorders - A Review of the Literature

Eating disorders date all the way back to the late 1800’s when doctors in England first discovered anorexia, even the ancient Greeks involved themselves in bulimia. As eating disorders date way back, they are still around today more than ever. Roughly 24 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder in the U.S. (ANAD). With all of these people suffering from different forms of eating disorders, extensive amounts of research has been conducted to answer the following questions:
1. What are the different types of eating disorders?
2. What causes eating disorders?
3. Are there any treatments for eating disorders?
Eating disorders are psychological, and for a patient to be cured he or she must understand the complications of their disorder and be willing to change themselves.

What Are the Different Types of Eating Disorders?
In today’s society we have three different types of eating disorders: anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. All three of these disorders have one thing in common, they deal with self-image. In most cases someone feels that their bodily image is bad. They feel they’re too fat, when in reality their body is fine and they begin abnormal eating habits which disrupt the body.

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder in which someone refuses to maintain a healthy body weight and fear of gaining weight. The term anorexia nervosa was first used by an English physician named Sir Wuilliam Gull, in 1873 (Abraham 2001, p.25). He described a young woman, ‘Miss A.’ He monitored her overtime and came to found that anorexia patients are often hungry, but suppress their hunger and refuse to eat normally. Anorexia occurs in 0.2-1.0% of adolescent girls and 1.0-4.0% of college aged women (Misra 2006, 91). People who suffer from anorexia have a much lower bone mineral density (BMD). Multiple factors contribute to low BMD and anorexia, and these include hypogonadism, under nutrition, excessive exercise and hypercortisolemia (Misra 2006, 92).

Bulimia nervosa is nearly the opposite of anorexia in which the person eats an extensive amount of food and then regurgitates the food back out. Bulimics have the same symptoms as anorexia as in they don’t want to gain weight and they’re always unhappy with their body. Without frequent binge eating, a diagnosis of bulimia is incorrect (Costin 10). People with bulimia restrict their caloric intake to try to keep a weight that is too low for them to maintain.

Binge eating is completely different than anorexia and bulimia because someone eats a large amount of food and they don’t regurgitate it. Binge-eaters are often overweight or obese. People who binge eat, eat much faster than normal, they eat until they are uncomfortably full, they eat alone, and they then feel disgusted with themselves because they just ate so much. Some professionals are of the opinion that there are two distinct subcategories of binge eating: deprivation-sensitive binge eating and addictive or dissociative binge eating (Costin 17).

What Causes Eating Disorders?
Eating disorders occur a lot of the time because a person is unhappy with the way that their body looks. They think they’re too fat and need to lose weight and in result of this they attempt to lose weight in unhealthy ways. Multiple factors are involved, such as genetics and metabolism; psychological issues – such as control, coping skills, trauma, personality factors, family issues; and social issues, such as a culture that promotes thinness and media that transmits this message (ANAD). But there are also other factors out there that can cause someone to begin these bad habits. The media is often blamed for increasing incidences of eating disorders. The media are accused of distorting reality, in that the models and celebrities portrayed in the media are either naturally thin and thus unrepresentative of normality, or unnaturally thin (Polivy & Herman 2002, p.192). When adolescent females constantly see models, actresses, and singers super thin it’s portrayed that that’s how they must be now and when they get older. Like the media peers can play a huge role on eating disorders, Adolescent girls learn certain attitudes (i.e., the importance of slimness) and behaviors (i.e., dieting, purging) from their peers (Levine et al. 1994), both by example and encouragement and by way of teasing for failure to adhere to peer norms (Polivey & Herman 2002, p. 192).

Many times the family plays a very large role in eating disorders. Mothers can influence their daughters into losing weight which can lead to more intense problems. They think that their daughters should lose more weight and describe them as less attractive than do comparison mothers or the girls themselves (Polivey & Herman 2002, p. 194). Sometimes the mother may even have an eating disorder herself and feed her irregularly and expressing large concerns of weight at an early age. There can be many different reasons to why one suffers from an eating disorder; it all revolves around the environment of the person and their emotional status.

Are There Any Treatments for Eating Disorders?
There are ways available for an eating disorder client to recover. But the big question is what does it mean to recover, and how long must the client be clean of the symptoms? Clinicians, clients, and loved ones must understand that full recovery can take many years and that it is not possible to predict at the outset of treatment who will be successful (Costin 27). As Costin said, treatment is going to take time, you aren’t going to get better of night. Contact a doctor or physician for immediate help, and then find an eating disorder treatment program to get on the right track. There are also different therapy technicians that can assist a patient, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist. A patient can also do family therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy, which just teaches patients how to change abnormal thoughts.

While millions of people suffer from eating disorders around the world, they are preventable and treatable. There are different forms of treatment that can aid a patient who needs the correct help so that patient can say, I overcame my eating disorder. No one wants to admit that they have an eating disorder because they feel embarrassed or ashamed of themselves, but the treatment and help is available!