The repercussions of an eating disorder (ED)have the power to permanently damage someone’s body. Imagine the heightened danger that occurs in teenagers, those still developing inside and out. Anorexia Nervosa, an eating disorder that involves refusing to eat or consume large amounts of food, has the highest death rate of any mental illness. Eatings Disorders are a slippery slope, a slope that constantly leaves you striving for more. In a world with pressures coming from every angle, from the devices we hold in our hands 24/7 and let influence us from the moment we wake up to the moment we close our eyes at the end of the day, how does one escape? How do we form our own thoughts and hold true to our needs over our wants? These questions will never have answers, as we see the ED statistics rise each year. What we can do to help is to be aware of the signs in order to get help for yourself or a loved one before the danger begins to set in.
Teens are the most impressionable group of people in our world. They are constantly aspiring to besomething, to look like someone, to act like someone, to meet the desires of someone else, maybe a crush at school? The pressures are endless, and we are creatures of habit. You do the math. Teenagers hoard a mix of determination, competition, aspiration, and image. Some of these are good qualities, but when you put force behind something for the wrong reason, it’s nearly unstoppable.
The signs of eating disorders fall into two buckets: behavioral and physical. Here are the signs for each.
The difference between ED’s and other mental illnesses is that there’s no hiding the physical effects. If you or someone you love has or is currently aligned with one of the signs above, seek help immediately.
The main takeaway from the bulk of ED statistics are the amount of people that never seek treatment, as die as a result. According to Eating Disorder Hope, only one third of individuals struggling with anorexia nervosa in the US get treatment. Similarly, of those practicing bulimia, only 6% will get help. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that 2.7% of teens between the ages 13-18 struggle with an ED.
Weight control behaviors, such as skipping meals, purging, smoking cigarettes, and laxatives are methods used by 50% of teenage girls and 30% of teenage boys. The issue here is, these methods become social, a habit, rather. So much so that the person may forget why they’re even doing what they’re doing. Their body becomes comfortable in a certain state of empty. When it gets pushed to the limit, an act must occur to return to the body back to its place of “comfort,” which for most victims is an empty stomach. Some of these habits prevent the stomach from getting any food at all, like smoking which can curb your appetite. Purging gives victims that immediate sense of relief. Once they receive that relief from one of two acts, it falls to habit. With this type of purging behavior, it would take less than a year for your dentist to ask you, “Have you changed your diet recently? More acidic foods?” That’s irreversible damage. Around 25% of women in college turn to purging as a method of keeping the calories out.
There are many steps that you can take to help yourself or loved ones who may be struggling. The facts above are not meant to frighten you, but to tell you how dangerous and permanent the effects can be. The key to preventing someone from falling down this slippery slope is open communication. Depending on what stage the person is at in their illness, professional assistance may very well be necessary. You can find more information and a hotline at https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/. If you know someone needs help, the worst thing you can do is wait.