Trends that I am seeing in Eating Disorders over the years
Whilst there are a small percentage of males suffering eating disorders, the vast majority of clients are females. Of the females, there is certainly the significant group of teenage girls (14 – 18 years) and some girls as young as 11 years of age. Of interest, I am also seeing a new trend with women presenting at times of significant change in their lives (eg new baby, the empty nest, divorce). This transition in these lady’s worlds leaves them feeling “antsy” or “unsettled” and can lean them towards needing a focus of control in their life – which is where the control of food comes in. The prevalence of eating disorders in the community is on the increase.
Some common traits or people with Eating Disorders …….
I describe it as the “The Ducks” concept where certain character traits that are part of a person’s personality and other character traits are influenced by the environment with which they live. We can see a degree of generalised anxiety; perfectionism; high achiever and competiveness; emotionally sensitive and generally “thinking of others”. The “Big Ducks” are rigidity and persistence. When the “Big Ducks” are mixed with any of the above it can create a greater vulnerability to development of disordered and rigid eating behaviours, which often when started are difficult to stop and become more strict and more rigid as time goes on. Another physiological common link is that people have a natural ability to lose weight quite quickly, which can set off a string of physical, mental and emotional changes within the body. Of course, no one ever chooses to have an eating disorder, rather it appears there are multiple factors that go together and people find it difficult to stop this chain of events once it begins.
The emergence of ‘orthorexia’ in recent years and where has it come from …..
Orthorexia nervosa is the “health food eating disorder” that appears to be gaining momentum in recent years. It comes from the Greek word “ortho” meaning proper, correct or right. To the perfectionist and high achiever a healthy eating message can be taken too far, and whole foods and food groups can be avoided without any valid or scientific reason to do so. They can become very stressed, guilty and anxious when confronted with “what to eat” – as it has to be “perfectly correct”. As a result, food choices become more and more limited. It is possible that the exposure to restrictive diets in this vulnerable group of girls and women could be an environmental trigger for development of disordered eating patterns.
Everyone can eat healthy and should eat healthy ….. it is where “the health food eating disorder” … becomes unhealthful.
My advice for parents and families ….
My advice for parents and carers is to promote a healthy and normal relationship with food to their children. Keep all foods morally neutral, encourage health and wellness and food choices that reflect that, but above all eating should be an enjoyable experience that is relaxed, positive and in balance. Be mindful that exposure to very restrictive diets in some females with personality traits that I have mentioned may lead to undesirable, obsessive and unhealthful eating behaviours.