1) Who is at Risk?
Recently I was asked who I find are the most common people to experience eating disorders. In my practice I see people from all walks of life that are experiencing a dysfunctional focus on food or body image. “Eating Disorders” include those who under-eat (e.g., anorexia, bulimia) and those who over-eat (binge eating, over-eating, night eating). Having said that, I thought I would comment on what groups, statistically, fall into the highest risk categories. The following (below) is a clip from a Mayo Clinic staff article and quite clearly shows who is found to be at greatest risk. If you or someone you know falls into more than one of these categories it would be wise to keep an eye out for some of the common types of thinking and behaving that accompany “disordered eating” or an unhealthy focus on body image. Some personal learning or counselling can help curb these thoughts and behaviours before they become ingrained and very difficult to dislodge.
I think most practitioners who work in this field would agree that the longer an eating disorder persists the more difficult it is to change. And remember, hunger/food is something you have to deal with 3-5 times a day, on average, and your body is with you all day everyday so, if these two things become stressors then that represents a lot of repetitive stress that can really wear you down and very quickly start to affect other areas of your life.
Certain situations and events might increase the risk of developing an eating disorder. These risk factors may include:
- Being female. Teenage girls and young women are more likely than are teenage boys and young men to have eating disorders.
- Age. Although eating disorders can occur across a broad age range — from pre-adolescents to older adults — they are much more common during the teens and early 20s.
- Family history. Eating disorders are significantly more likely to occur in people who have parents or siblings who’ve had an eating disorder.
- Emotional disorders. People with depression, anxiety disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder are more likely to have an eating disorder.
- Dieting. People who lose weight are often reinforced by positive comments from others and by their changing appearance. This may cause some people to take dieting too far, leading to an eating disorder.
- Transitions. Whether it’s heading off to college, moving, landing a new job or a relationship breakup, change can bring emotional distress, which may increase your susceptibility to an eating disorder.
- Sports, work and artistic activities. Athletes, actors and television personalities, dancers, and models are at higher risk of eating disorders. Eating disorders are particularly common among ballerinas, gymnasts, runners and wrestlers. Coaches and parents may unwittingly contribute to eating disorders by encouraging young athletes to lose weight.