Eating disorders and mental health conditions are often linked
By Journalism I students Abigail Burns and Bhada Han, ’22
What happens in 62 seconds? Take 13 breaths. Feel your heartbeat 74 times. 255 babies are born. 58 planes will take off worldwide. You will blink 16 times. In the 62 seconds it takes for these things to happen, one person will have died from an eating disorder.
Kay, a senior at UAHS who requested anonymity, shared her struggles with body image and eating, stating that she didn’t really have many problems out of the normal range until around sophomore year. That was when the insecurities transitioned into restricting food and dieting. Kay started to realize that her behaviors were unhealthy when they started mentioning their habits to different people.
“I was talking to a counselor [and said some things] and she just said, ‘Yeah, that’s not normal.’”
But she isn’t the only one, a voluntary journalism survey of 261 students showed 10 have been diagnosed with an eating disorder.
Often times eating disorders come with at least one other mental health condition. There have been many links to anxiety, most commonly obsessive-compulsive disorder, and eating disorders. It is unsure whether eating disorders cause anxiety or vice versa.
Eating disorders are the deadliest mental illness known and the only one that can kill you with the disease itself. Eating disorders can harm the body in many ways, as stated by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Malnutrition, most common in anorexia, can cause brittle hair and nails, thinning of bones, drop in blood pressure and body temperature, loss of menstrual periods and more. Bulimia can lead to many gastrointestinal problems such as acid reflux, kidney failure, and intestinal distress or irritation. Other problems linked with bulimia are weak tooth enamel and chronic soreness in the throat. Kay herself says that her issues have caused her immune system to go down, caused poor circulation and she is anemic.
Sexual orientation and gender identity play a big role in eating disorders and overall body image as well. According to NEDA, among males who were diagnosed with eating disorders, 42 percent identified as gay and were seven times more likely to report binging and 12 times more likely to report purging compared to heterosexual males.
With gender identity, it was found that transgender college students had a four times greater risk of being diagnosed with anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, and two times greater risk for eating disorder symptoms such as purging or binging compared to peers that were cisgender females according to a study conducted in 2015 from Washington University School of Medicine. In the voluntary journalism survey taken by UAHS students, 57.4 percent of 211 responses believed that gender identity can take its toll on body image issues.
Many people who believe they may have an eating disorder don’t end up getting treatment for their issues. Kay, who said she suffers from other mental health issues, indicated that she didn’t want to put more stress on her parents since they are already working on her other issues.
“Definitely don’t be afraid. I know I’m gonna sound super hypocritical right now because like I’m not really doing this, but like definitely just find people you connect with and are supportive and will help you. And like disconnect with people who aid that (eating disorder). Especially in sophomore year, I had some super not healthy friendships.” Kay said.
“Even if you aren’t super comfortable reaching out to a parent or counseling definitely fill yourself with people that are positive influences and support(ive).”
There are treatment options for anyone feeling that they may be slipping into bad eating habits. In Franklin County, Nationwide Children’s Hospital has an eating disorder program for children and adolescents, and the Center for Balanced Living offers many programs for anyone 16 years and older. M, a staff member at the Center For Balanced Living, says “Treatment is designed to meet you wherever you’re at, so no matter where you’re at, treatment can be for you.”
Center For Balanced Living: (614)-896-8222
Nationwide Children’s Hospital Eating Disorder Clinic: (614)-355-6300
Despite the treatment, in the time that you were reading this, more lives were lost to eating disorders. Whether it be gender identity or sexuality, pressure from society, or just pressure from within themselves, eating disorders can take over someone’s life. Although people are more aware of mental health issues today, NEDA finds that the rates of eating disorders remain unchanged.