AUSTIN, Texas (KXAN) — As part of Eating Disorder Awareness Week, it is import to take note that 30 million Americans now suffer the disorders, two-thirds of them women and many more young girls are also showing symptoms.
The executive director of the Eating Recovery Center in Austin, Dr. Allison Chase, notes, “Once the body is starving, things kind of shut down. They’ll tell you they are not hungry anymore, it’s like you get the eating disorder brain where the eating disaster is the one in control.”
The causes can be biological and mental. Uncontrollable compulsions to overeat or not eat at all. Binging, bulimia, and anorexia can even kill you.
Dr. Chase explains, “It stresses the heart. A lot of things can happen in the body that taxes the body and the heart can’t work that hard anymore. Because the body has been so malnourished and so has the brain.”
The Eating Recovery Center works first on the body and behavior, presenting clients with better diet options, retraining themselves how to eat. Then they move on to the mental approach with group and individual therapy. Two-thirds of disorders are in women and they often begin in adolescence. It’s about obsessing with weight and appearance. Dr. Chase says, “We have changing bodies, we have different hormonal functions, women are more primed for that, women tend to be more emotional in general.”
They are even seeing girls now as young as 10, but catching it early can also be a good thing. The trick is maintaining health habits down the road. About half of eating disorder cases relapse. According to Dr. Chase, “The key is to be able to use their skills, use what they’ve learned about themselves to continue engaging in healthy behaviors.”
Taking a deeper look at the problem, almost half of people with eating disorders meet the criteria for depression, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. Only one in 10 seeks treatment. Ninety-five percent of those with eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 26. Women ages 15 to 24 are twelve times more likely to die from anorexia than anything else. More than half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teen boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, vomiting or taking laxatives.
The National Eating Disorders Association has a toll free, confidential Helpline at 1-800-931-2237, as well as information on how to find help on their website.