eating disorder signs

Why Are 24 million Teens and Young Adults Struggling with an Eating Disorder?

(by Dawson McAllister)

Disordered Eating

I’ve heard far too many stories from young people, especially girls, who are in deep trouble because they have turned food into a weapon of self-destruction.

Eating Disorders affect over 24 million Americans and 90% of those are women between the ages of 12 and 25.

Eating disorders don’t just include anorexia and bulimia any longer. The Finding Balance website, a partner organization of ours, lists 8 types of disordered eating. While eating disorders take on many different faces, they all center around one thing: an unhealthy obsession with food or avoiding food.

Here are some recent statistics that really disturbed me:

  • According to a recent study, over 1/2 the females between the ages of 18-25 would prefer to be run over by a truck then be fat, and 2/3 surveyed would rather be mean or stupid.
  • 51% of 9 and 10 year-old girls feel better about themselves if they are on a diet
  • 42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner.

Seriously??? Fifty percent of girls would rather be stupid or dead??? And a 7 year old is worried about her weight? These studies frighten me. But I know it’s true.

Why Are 24 million Teens and Young Adults Struggling with an Eating Disorder in America today?

The pressure to be perfect can be intense and insecurities can mount. It’s like Erin said in a note she sent to TheHopeLine® about the need to be perfect:

In 8th grade, I noticed how all of my friends had boyfriends and nice clothes and nice houses. And then I began to feel I wasn’t good enough because no guys liked me and they liked my friends. So I decided since I wasn’t perfect like my friends seemed to be, I would try everything to be perfect. I began to plan out a diet which soon turned into a dangerous eating disorder.

What was the one thing Erin could control? Her diet. So that’s what she did…to the point of danger. 20% of people suffering from anorexia will prematurely die from complications related to their eating disorder, including suicide and heart problems.

If you know someone who is struggling to find freedom from an eating disorder, encourage them to seek counseling. It is not something they will just “get over.” Their perception of food and of their body has become so skewed and it will take counseling to set it straight.

Yet so many people don’t get the help they need. Of the 24 million Americans that struggle with an eating disorder, only 1 in 10 of them actually receive treatment.

I know that going to counseling can be a hard step to take. I also know that so many people who get counseling are tempted to not open up and tell the whole truth. I hear it all the time…

Steph called into my radio show scared because she had just gone through a very bad break-up with her boyfriend. She knew that her coping mechanism was to starve herself and she was worried about where she was headed. She confessed that when she had been to counseling in the past she lied in order to get out of it. I had to get pretty blunt with her, telling her that no one could force feed her to keep her from dying. She had to decide if she was ready to get the help she needed.

Then I got a call from Mackenzie who also said she wasn’t being open with her counselor. It is important to stress that to get help the whole truth needs to be told…even if that truth brings up feeling of shame or may hurt someone else. Healing can’t happen until their story is told.

Here are some resources you may find helpful on Eating Disorders.

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