Silent Sufferers and Eating Disorders
National Eating Disorders Awareness Week: February 23 to March 1
By age 20, 15 percent of women suffer from an eating disorder, such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or binge eating disorder—and many are silent sufferers. Men also suffer from eating disorders, and while the prevalence is considerably less, this is mainly due to underreporting.1
Anorexia nervosa is “the successful pursuit of weight loss to achieve a body mass index less than 85 percent of the median expected for age and gender.”1 Individuals who suffer from this disorder engage in severe dietary restriction.1 They are obsessed with calories and try to eat as little as possible for the fear of becoming overweight.
Bulimia nervosa is also the restriction of food intake; however, this is interrupted by repeated binges, or episodes where they lose control and consume of a large amount of food, during which time they feel distress and shame.1 To compensate for their overconsumption of food, individuals with bulimia will often induce vomiting or use laxatives.1
It is devastating to know that people with these disorders suffer in silence. According to researchers, people with eating disorders show many signs of social withdrawal syndrome, as they do not have much trust in others, are unwilling to disclose information about their eating, and are often extremely lonely.1 These patterns are due to the shame that they feel regarding their body image and eating behavior.1 However, they are at risk for social, mental, and physical health problems that are often severe.1
In fact, bulimia nervosa is highly liked to social withdrawal syndrome, as one study by Rotenburg and colleagues proved. In this study, 137 young adults were tested for eating disorders, and results showed that those who had bulimia nervosa were less likely to have trust in their family and friends, unwilling to disclose personal information to them, leading to loneliness.1 Also, when these variables present without an eating disorder, it is a predictor of one emerging.1
Humans are social creatures, and experience pain and distress when separated from others.1 They have a need to be a part of social groups, have human contact, and develop close relationships.1 When they are unable to, they become lonely, and loneliness have mental and physical health effects.1 They include depression, suicide, cardiovascular disease, increased stress levels, poor decision making, substance use, and altered brain function.1 As those who suffer from eating disorders experience loneliness, they are disposed to these problems.1 Loneliness also contributes to eating problems.1 It is a vicious circle of symptoms that people with eating disorders suffer from.1
You don’t have to suffer in silence—we are here to help.