Tragically, eating disorders remain a misunderstood and even maligned illness in today's society, needlessly laden with guilt or shame. How sad that it should take an act of courage for those who suffer to actually come forward for help. That must change. Because no one should suffer this disease alone.
Eating disorders aren't something we choose for ourselves. No one is responsible for or in any way to be blamed for developing the disease. Anyone can become ill -- regardless of age, gender, race, ethnicity, income level, religious affiliation, or sexual preference.
Eating disorders are not a lifestyle, and they are so much more than a diet gone awry. Despite their name and symptoms, eating disorders actually have little to do with food, weight, or body image. Often, they are a way to cope with difficult problems or regain a sense of control. They are complicated illnesses that affect a person's sense of identity, worth, and self esteem. The factors that contribute to their development are complex, as are their physical, emotional, and social consequences.
Our world is not an easy place for someone struggling with an eating disorder. It delivers a constant barrage of triggers, confusing messages, and unrealistic expectations. Getting past an eating disorder is a process rather than a matter of resolve. There isn't a quick-fix or one-size-fits-all solution -- and it isn't something one can do on their own. Recovery requires a lot of support over time, in a way that feels safe and genuinely caring, and through programs and services that fit the needs of the person suffering, not the provider. Set-backs happen. One's return to happy, healthful living seldom follows a straight path - but it's a path that does exist and is worth taking.
This is the most important thing to understand about eating disorders: Recovery is possible. We've been through it ourselves.
Did you Know?
Click below to discover what might be surprising facts about eating disorders.
- Estimates vary, but it is widely believed that between 500,000 and one million Canadians suffer from an eating disorder. The disease can affect people of any age, gender, race, income level, religious affiliation, or sexual orientation.
- An even larger number of Canadians suffer from negative body image and unhealthy weight management practices. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), some 70% of women and 35% of men are dieting at any given time. Dieters may have a higher risk of developing an eating disorder.
- Certain eating disorders (anorexia and bulimia) do affect women more than men; however, binge eating affects men and women equally.
- The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) reports that eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses. Between 10% and 20% of individuals with anorexia die within 10 years.
- The annual death rate associated with anorexia is 12 times higher than that of all causes combined for females between the ages of 15 and 24.
- The average lifetime duration of bulimia is more than 8 years.
- According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), 28% of Canadians who visit Emergency for eating disorders are hospitalized; of these, 93% are women.
- The CIHI also reports 42% increase in hospitalization for children aged 10-19 suffering from eating disorders.
- The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) reports that since 1987, hospitalization for eating disorders has increased 34% among children under the age of 15 and 29% among youth aged 15 - 24.
- While the onset of the disease can occur at any age, eating disorders typically begin in adolescence or young adulthood.
- Eating disorders are the most common chronic illness of female adolescents, but the incidence of eating disorders in young men is increasing.
- Seventeen percent (17%) of female students and eight percent (8%) of male students in BC high schools suffer from severely disordered eating.
- The 2002 Project Eat study of 5,000 teens revealed that more than 50% of girls and 33% of boys engage in unhealthy weight control behaviours - including fasting, vomiting, laxatives, skipping meals, or smoking to control appetite.
- One 2008 study revealed that even among grade nine students of normal weight, 19% believed they were too fat, and 12% were attempting to lose weight.
- Another study of nine-year old girls revealed that up to 40% have dieted to lose weight—even when they were at a normal weight.
- Eating disorders may be associated with mood disorders like depression, anxiety disorders like obsessive-compulsive disorder, substance use disorders and some personality disorders.
- People suffering from eating disorders may also struggle with a substance abuse problem or other addiction. Estimates of dual diagnosis are as high as 50%.
- Eating disorders are known to cause the loss of friendships, increased social isolation, depression, and anxiety.
- The casualties of this disease are not just the sufferers, but the people who love them as well
- Eating disorders disrupt families, create tremendous stress in marriages, and (given the cost of services) can place major financial burdens on families as well.
- Often, the pressures of caring for a child with an eating disorder will contribute significantly to depression and other emotional disturbances in the immediate family.
- Parents caring for children with eating disorders often need respite.
- Eating disorders tend to run in families; one has a higher risk of developing an eating disorder if a close family member suffers from the disease.
- There is a significant lack of funding to combat eating disorders and their devastating consequences. Too many individuals and families are left feeling helpless, hopeless, and frightened.
- Treating eating disorders costs BC taxpayers $400 million annually in direct and indirect costs.