Make your own free website on Tripod.com

Who is at Risk for an Eating Disorder?

[Back to Home Page][Back to ED Related Eval. Info. Page]

Questions

These disorders usually appear in bright, attractive young women between twelve and twenty-five, although there are both older and younger exceptions. At least five to ten percent (5-10%) are male, possibly more. Researchers and statisticians are just now beginning to determine how widespread eating disorders are in men and boys.

Back to Questions

[Back to Home Page]

Problems often begin when a person is dealing with a difficult transition, shock, or loss: puberty, marriage, divorce, family problems, death, new job, new school, breakup of an important relationship, sexual or physical abuse, critical comments from a respected authority figure, and so forth. These situations sometimes overwhelm a person's ability to handle them. S/he feels helpless and out of control.

People vulnerable to eating disorders also, in most cases, are experiencing relationship problems, loneliness in particular. Some may be withdrawn with only superficial or conflicted connections to other people. Others may seem to be living exciting lives filled with friends and social activities, but later they will confess that they did not feel they really fit in, that no one seemed to really understand them, and that they had no true friends or confidants with whom they could share their innermost thoughts, feelings, doubts, insecurities, fears, hopes, ambitions, and so forth. Often they desperately want healthy connections to others but fear criticism and rejection if their perceived flaws and shortcomings become known.

Wanting to take control and fix things, but not really knowing how, and under the influence of a culture that equates success and happiness with thinness, the person tackles her/his body instead of the problem at hand. Dieting, bingeing, purging, exercising, and other strange behaviors are not random craziness. They are heroic, but misguided and ineffective, attempts to take charge in a world that seems overwhelming.

Note: dieting and the resulting hungers, both physical and emotional, caused by deprivation are two of the strongest triggers of binge eating we know of. It is a bit simplistic, but nonetheless true, that if no one dieted, there would be no anorexia nervosa. Neither would there be the bulimia that results from prolonged restricted eating, the hunger that follows, and the overwhelming cravings for lots of calorie-laden food that naturally accompany strict self-denial. About 50% of people who have starved themselves into anorexia become bulimic when they lose control of urges to make up for lost time, and calories, by eating lots of food very rapidly.

Back to Questions

[Back to Home Page]

People who become anorexic often were good children: conscientious, hard working, and good students. They may be people pleasers who seek approval and avoid conflict. They may take care of other people and strive for perfection, but underneath they feel defective and inadequate. They want to be special, to stand out from the mediocre masses. They try to achieve that goal by losing weight and being thin.

Back to Questions

[Back to Home Page]

People who become bulimic often have problems with anxiety, depression, and impulsivity (shoplifting, casual sexual activity, binge shopping, alcohol and drug abuse, and so forth. They may be dependent on their families even though they fiercely profess independence. Many have problems trusting other people. They have few or no truly satisfying friendships or romantic relationships.

Back to Questions

[Back to Home Page]

Because of intense demands for thinness, some people are at high risk for eating disorders: wrestlers, jockeys, cheerleaders, sorority members, socialites, dancers, gymnasts, runners, models, actresses, entertainers, and male homosexuals.

Back to Questions

[Back to Home Page]

Some clinicians find that a high percentage of their clients with eating disorders also have histories of physical or sexual abuse. Research, however, suggests that people who have been abused have about the same incidence of eating disorders as those who have not been mistreated. Nevertheless, the subject arises often enough to warrant discussion here.

People who have survived abuse often do not know what to do with the strong feelings and overwhelming memories that remain, sometimes even many years later. Some try to escape those feelings and memories by numbing themselves with binge food or through starvation. Some try to symbolically cleanse themselves by vomiting or abusing laxatives. Some starve themselves because they believe they feel they are "bad" and do not deserve the comfort of food and the nurture it represents.

As with all eating disorders, the starving and stuffing that follow abuse are coping behaviors. The key to recovery is finding out what the person is trying to achieve, or avoid, with the behaviors. S/he then needs to find, and use, healthier and more effective behaviors to feel better and make life happier. Almost always professional counseling is necessary to complete the process.

This information was taken with permission from: ANRED logo http://www.anred.com

Back to Questions

[Back to Home Page][Back to ED Related Eval. Info. Page]