Eating disorders are serious conditions characterized by an unhealthy preoccupation with food and body image. The most common types of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and binge eating. Anorexia is marked by the refusal to eat and an obsession with weight loss. Bulimia is characterized by a cycle of binging and purging that the individual uses to control his or her weight.
Binge eating disorder is an eating disorder that involves sessions of intense overeating followed by feelings of shame. Other disorders that are related to eating disorders include emotional eating and nocturnal eating.
Even though most people think of eating disorders as a condition that affects only young women, in reality eating disorders can affect people from all kinds of backgrounds. Here are some of the most recent statistics about incidence of eating disorders in the United States.
Not so Rare at All
Eating disorders are not rare in the United States. In fact, it is estimated that currently there are approximately between 5 and 10 million women in the United States who suffer from some kind of eating disorder, or are at the borderline of developing one. It is also estimated that over one million boys and men suffer from some kind of eating disorder.
Most physicians believe that this statistic may not be accurate because many men with eating disorders are not accurately diagnosed. Studies have shown that many men are told that they are simply tired or depressed, when they are actually suffering from an eating disorder.
Three Times as Many as AIDS Patients
One startling statistic reveals how prevalent eating disorders actually are in the United States. According to recent research, the number of people suffering from an eating disorder is three times as much as the number of people currently living with AIDS. Another statistic tells us that there are three times as many people with eating disorders than there are schizophrenia patients in the United States.
Another set of statistics reveals the way issues of beauty and body image are portrayed in the media. According to research, the average modern American woman is 5’4″ tall and weighs approximately 140 pounds. Compare this to the image that fashion magazines and TV commercials present as the ideal of beauty.
The average American model is 5’11” tall and weights 117 pounds, and they are represented as the ideal of our cultural beauty. The disparity between these two figures, some commentators and physicians argue, is partly responsible to the way women view their bodies and construct their self-image. Many women find themselves deficient when compared to the ideal presented through the media.
The effect of media images on young children have not been lost on researchers, who find that many young children are already consumed by thoughts of weight and physical beauty. Recent studies find that roughly half of all American elementary age school children would like to be thinner, and even Kindergarten aged students have been shown to display anxiety over their physical appearance and their fear of gaining weight. Many young children find themselves already preoccupied with either losing or maintaining their weight, and have even gone on diets to achieve these goals.