Articles and Statistics

Articles

EATING DISORDER: WHEN DIETING BECOMES DEADLY

Case Sample

Susan made a pact with fellow high school dance team members to lose a few pounds.  She never stopped dieting, and her weight sank dangerously low after ten years.  Susan had the bones of a 70 year old woman, muscle damage that prevented her from having children, and heart damage. 

 

Ruth, attractive, successful college student barely in an appropriate weight range for her height found it difficult to leave the isolation of her apartment.  She kept no food at home for fear she would abuse it.  Despite good intentions, she purchased binge food daily, purging repeatedly, and feeling even worse about herself.

 

Jill had always been physically fit.  After the birth of her second child, she became obsessed with her weight, and her visits to the gym lasted longer and longer.  Her concerned physician referred her to a cardiologist.  He got her an appointment the next day, but Jill collapsed in the cardiologist’s office and was rushed to the hospital.

 

Ron, an outgoing boy gained a few extra pounds.  Teasing by middle school peers led him to drop a significant amount of weight.  His alarmed pediatrician referred him to a cardiologist.  The day after he saw the cardiologist his mother could not awaken him.  He was rushed to a hospital where he spent a week fighting for his life.

 

June was an educated, outgoing mother of three.  As a child she took solace from quarreling parents with a book and a bag of cookies.  June avoided comments about her obesity by joking about it.   By age 38 she developed life-threatening medical co-morbidities.   As a loving person who touched lives, June felt helpless to change her own.

 

These stories depict various eating disorders that affect ten million people in the United States.   Eating disorders affect alarming numbers of women and a growing percentage of men.  According to the Center for Disease Control, one in four high school boys now struggle with eating disorders.  As many as 20% of high school and college females have an eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia, or binge eating.  Since 1930, the incidence of anorexia in young women has risen each decade.  Between 1988 and 1993 the incidence of bulimia in ages 10-39 tripled.

 

All eating disorders have serious medical implications, including an estimated 10-20% mortality rate, the highest for any psychological condition.  The mortality rate associated with anorexia is twelve times higher for females ages 15-24 than all other causes of death.  Only 33% of people with anorexia and 6% of people with bulimia receive care, so the majority of people with severe eating disorders receive inadequate care.  Statistically, one third recover from eating disorders, one third improve but continue to struggle, and one third never recover. 

 

According to a 2005 market research survey conducted by the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), four out of ten Americans either suffer or know someone who suffered from an eating disorder.  Three out of four Americans believe eating disorders should be covered by insurance companies just like any other illness.  Americans also believe the government should require insurance companies to cover the treatment of eating disorders. 

 

Family members seeking care for loved ones with eating disorders often find their health insurance either does not cover eating disorder treatment or covers it poorly.  Despite serious medical implications, a high mortality rate, and research indicating a biological component to eating disorders, insurance companies may classify this illness as a mental health problem, deeming treatment “medically unnecessary.”  Many individuals with eating disorders also struggle with denial of their condition and/or clinical depression, making it difficult for them to advocate for their care.

 

Funding dedicated to research is disproportionately low.  In 2005, the National Institute of Health estimated research dollars spent on eating disorders averaged $1.20 per affected individual, compared to $159.00 per affected individual for schizophrenia and $143.77 per affected individual for Alzheimer’s.  These figures are even more disparate when the $12 million allotted to eating disorders is compared with the $647 million allotted to Alzheimer’s.

 

Recommended reading:

  • Hall, L. & Cohn, L.  (1999).  Bulimia: A guide to recovery.  Carlsbad, CA: Gurze Books.
  • Schaefer, J. & Rudledge, T. (2004).  Life without Ed: How One woman declared independence from her eating disorder and how you can too.  New York, NY: McGraw.
  • Tribole, E. & Resch, E. (1995).  Intuitive eating.  New York, NY: St Martin’s Press.

 

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Statistics

National Eating Disorders Association

  • At least 20% of high school and college women struggle with an eating disorder.
  • According to the Center for Disease Control, 25% of high school boys struggle with an eating disorder.
  • Since 1930, the incidence of anorexia nervosa in young women has risen each decade.
  • Between 1988 and 1993 the incidence of bulimia in ages 10-39 tripled.
  • The mortality rate for all eating disorders is 10-20%, the highest for any mental illness.
  • Among women ages 15-24, the mortality rate associated with anorexia nervosa is twelve times higher than all other causes of death combined.
  • Most people with eating disorders do not receive adequate care.
  • 4 out of 10 Americans have suffered with eating disorders or know someone who has.
  • 75% of Americans believe eating disorders should be covered by insurance just like any illness.

 

 

      Federal Dollars Spent On Research in 2005

 

Disease Total Dollars Spent Dollars Spent Per Affected Individual

 

Schizophrenia

 

$2.2 million

 

$159.00

Alzheimer’s

$4.5 million

$143.77

Eating Disorders

$1.2 million

$1.20

 

 

 

**In 2005, 10 million women struggled with eating disorders; the number of men is unknown and probably growing.