You cannot force a person with an eating disorder to change. You can, however, offer support and encouragement, and this alone can make a huge difference to their wellbeing and motivate them to seek out the necessary treatment. Sometimes though, people with the most caring intentions may say something they feel is completely harmless and benign, without understanding how their words are heard by a person suffering from an eating disorder.
Eating disorders can be genetic or caused by psychological issues like coping skills, control issues, trauma, family trouble, or social issues. While different types of eating disorders have different possible causes, one thing is for sure—female college students are particularly at risk for engaging in this harmful behavior.
Recent studies have shown that approximately 31% of female college students suffer from some form of an eating disorder. In fact, one college campus survey reported that 91% of the women admitted to controlling their weight through dieting, with 22% identifying themselves as dieting “often” or “always.” An estimated 25% of college-age women resort to binging and purging to manage their weight.
As the media speculates whether or not an eating disorder, coupled with extreme dieting and juice fasts may have played a role in the sudden and tragic death of 25 year-old Peaches Geldof; there is one thing we know for certain – approximately 24 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder (anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder) in the United States.
However, with this case thrusting the health risks related to extreme dieting into the media spotlight, we wanted to take a moment to discuss the very real dangers that occur when people engage in extreme dieting and explain the real life consequences that can occur.
Anorexia Nervosa is a potentially life-threatening eating disorder. In fact, according to the American Journal of Psychiatry, eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. This is why Pro-Anorexia websites (commonly referred to as ‘Pro-Ana’) are so problematic in our society today. These websites have the potential of encouraging vulnerable girls to develop an eating disorder, while simultaneously discouraging sufferers from seeking much-needed treatment.
Written by Molly Cook, LCSW, LISA
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