Eating Disorders : A Hideous Mental illness

Hello Friend,

This is the third episode in my series on Eating disorders. Incase you missed the previous two episodes, click Here and here.

In this episode, I intend that we see Eating Disorder as a mental illness as well it’s link to mortality.

Major mental illnesses such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder rarely appear “out of the blue.” Most often family, friends, teachers, or people themselves recognize that “something is not quite right” about their thinking, feelings, or behavior before one of these illnesses appears in its full-blown form.

Eating disorders carry the highest risk of death of any mental illness.

The ‘Unsaid’ About Eating Disorder

Eating disorders affect 0.9 percent of women and 0.3 percent of men at some point in their lives. The recognized types of eating disorders, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), include:

  • anorexia nervosa: the inability to keep up a minimally healthy body weight
  • bulimia nervosa: repeat bouts of binge eating followed by vomiting, inappropriate use of laxatives, fasting, or excessive exercise
  • eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS): an eating disorder that doesn’t fit the specific criteria for either anorexia or bulimia

The National Institute of Mental Health states that eating disorders have a 10 percent mortality rate—the highest of any mental disorder. Long-term eating disorders can increase a person’s risk for osteoporosis (bone thinning), reproductive problems, and permanent damage to the kidneys and heart.

Like other mental disorders, eating disorders can include a genetic component. Often, people experience other conditions along with an eating disorder, especially anxietydepression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

No one wakes up one day and chooses to have an eating disorder. Eating disorders rarely travel alone.

The Society

If you saw a friend with a gun to their head, you’d talk them out of it. Eating disorders are like having a gun to your head.” And sadly, society is ready and waiting to pull the trigger.

Critics are quick to blame the media’s portrayal of beauty—just review the Oscars coverage and note how many times reporters comment on someone’s attire or figure—but there’s more to it than that.

The Marlboro company didn’t cause lung cancer, but they did encourage people to smoke. Some people—not everyone—will do anything to look like that. We can’t blame the media because if the media caused eating disorders, we’d all have one.

However, society and popular culture  put pressure on people, especially the young, to look and act a certain way. Images of perfectly sculpted men and women are all around us, and it’s up to parents to help their children navigate these messages.

Mortality Rate

Although eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder,  the mortality rates reported on those who suffer from eating disorders can vary considerably between studies and sources. Part of the reason there is a large variance in the reported number of deaths caused by eating disorders is because those who suffer from an eating disorder may ultimately die of heart failure, organ failure, malnutrition or suicide. Often, the medical complication of death are reported instead of the eating disorder that  compromised a person’s health.

According to a study done at the American Journal of Psychiatry (2009), crude mortality rates were:

• 4% for anorexia nervosa

• 3.9%  for bulimia nervosa

• 5.2% for eating disorder not otherwise specified

The research reveals that;

• An estimated 10-15% of people with anorexia or bulimia are male.
• Men are less likely to seek treatment for eating disorders because of the perception that they are “woman’s diseases.
• Among gay men, nearly 14% appeared to suffer from bulimia and over 20% appeared to be anorexic.

Would you blame men for thinking that way? Wait till you read this…

• Women are much more likely than men to develop an eating disorder. Only an estimated 5 to 15 percent of people with anorexia or bulimia are male.
• An estimated 0.5 to 3.7 percent of women suffer from anorexia nervosa in their lifetime. Research suggests that about 1 percent of female adolescents have anorexia.
• An estimated 1.1 to 4.2 percent of women have bulimia nervosa in their lifetime.
• An estimated 2 to 5 percent of Americans experience binge-eating disorder in a 6-month period.
• About 50 percent of people who have had anorexia develop bulimia or bulimic patterns.
• 20% of people suffering from anorexia will prematurely die from complications related to their eating disorder, including suicide and heart problems.

Can we then conclude that eating disorder is prevalent in female? Check this out.

  • Women are more likely to have been treated for a mental health problem than men (29% compared to 17%).This could be because, when asked, women are more likely to report symptoms of common mental health problems. (Better Or Worse: A Longitudinal Study Of The Mental Health Of Adults In Great Britain, National Statistics, 2003)
  • Depression is more common in women than men. 1 in 4 women will need treatment for depression at some time, compared to 1 in 10 men. The reasons for these are unclear, but are thought to be due to both social and biological factors. It has also been suggested that depression in men may have been under diagnosed because they present to their GP* with different symptoms.  (National Institute For Clinical Excellence, 2003)
  • Women are twice as likely to experience anxiety as men. Of people with phobias **or OCD***, about 60% are female.  (The Office for National Statistics Psychiatric Morbidity report, 2001)
  • Men are more likely than women to have an alcohol or drug problem. 67% of British people who consume alcohol at ‘hazardous’ levels, and 80% of those dependent on alcohol are male. Almost three-quarters of people dependent on cannabis and 69% of those dependent on other illegal drugs are male. (The Office for National Statistics Psychiatric Morbidity report, 2001).

The mortality in women due to eating disorders is low due to the fact they are quick to check into a hospital when ill or seek help. But is is important to say as presented above  that the women suffer more from mental illness than the men due to a number of factors which is inclusive of Eating Disorders.

What then can be done?

You wouldn’t criticize someone with cancer. We need to be treating this like a tumor. You take them by the hand and help them.

*General Practitioner

*Persistent Fear

***Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Eating Disorder



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Toluse Francis

Toluse Francis believes a healthy lifestyle is paramount for everyone. He is a long -time volunteer with Solid Foundation Teens and Youth Ministry. He loves to care for people. Toluse Francis is a Health Coach and author He is interested in seeing people eat healthy and get productive. He believes a healthy lifestyle is paramount for everyone.

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