eating-disordersOur society puts unrealistic standards on how we should look, which can lead to distortions of self-image. Many young girls struggle to maintain an ideal figure, resorting to unhealthy practices to achieve a desired look. Eating disorders have catastrophic effects on the mind and body, left untreated such disorders can be fatal.

Eating disorders are most often characterized by anorexia nervosa (restricting food intake) and bulimia (binging and purging), both disorders are extremely difficult to treat because, unlike drugs and alcohol, everyone needs food. Learning to develop healthy eating practices often requires extensive treatment. What’s more, recognizing that there is a problem can be a challenge for doctors because some eating disorders in adolescents are being masked by “successful dieting,” reports SF Gate.

Anorexia nervosa is determined by eating patterns, not just weight, says Dr. Sara Buckelew, an associate professor of adolescent and young adult medicine in the Department of Pediatrics, and Daniel Le Grange, the Benioff UCSF professor in children’s health in the Department of Psychiatry and Pediatrics.

“With the prevalence of childhood obesity, eating disorders can masquerade as ‘successful dieting,’” Buckelew and Le Grange wrote. “But anorexia, a disease of self-starvation, is no longer only seen in people whose weight dips to double digits. Increasingly, we see it in adolescents of normal weight who used to be overweight. Like typical anorexia, their condition can be fatal if healthier eating patterns can’t be re-established.”

The majority of Buckelew and Le Grange’s patients have anorexia; however, they point out that anorexia is not the most common eating disorder, according to the article. In fact, Bulimia is seen in about 4 percent of females, while anorexia affects about 2 percent of young women. The doctors point out that there has been a rise in young men with anorexia. Research indicates that the fatality rate, fluctuating at around 5 percent, is about the same across the eating disorder spectrum.