Just like the heroin epidemic that is sweeping the country and greatly affecting Connecticut teens, eating disorders are also becoming a major public health concern in the state. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and its Youth Risk Behavior Surveys, a large number of teens in Connecticut, especially Latino teens, were affected by disordered eating between 2009 and 2011. Experts have estimated that approximately 3.4% of the state’s population is affected by an eating disorder.
Dr. Diane Mickley, founder and director of the Wilkins Centers for Eating Disorders in Greenwich, CT, commented that, “We used to see eating disorders start at 13 or 14. Now, we frequently see 10- and 11-year-olds.” Many of these youth are not getting treatment for teen eating disorders as well.
As a way to respond to the problem, two adolescent residential treatment centers have opened in Fairfield Country for youth, from ages11 to 17 since 2011. Craig Brown, founder and chief executive officer of the organization responsible for the new treatment centers reported recently:
We’ve been getting calls through the years that have progressively involved younger and younger children. We’re concerned that there are many boys and girls flying under the radar who could be struggling with eating disorders that aren’t diagnosed or treated.
To be officially diagnosed with an eating disorder, a teen must meet the clinical criteria for that disorder as it is defined according the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. This manual is the standardized text used by clinicians across North America, and it includes four types of eating disorders. These are Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, and Binge Eating Disorder. Three of these are defined below:
- A refusal to maintain a body weight that is considered within a normal range for age and height.
- An intense fear of gaining weight or being fat, even though the client is underweight.
- There exists a disturbance in the way that the body is seen, such as a denial of the seriousness of a low body weight.
- The absence of at least consecutive menstrual cycles.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness. Those with this disorder often begin with an intense desire to lose weight, which transforms into a morbid fear of gaining weight, to the point of endangering their life. Being thin is a way of exerting power and control, which becomes the most crucial and necessary task for survival, despite the fact that they are harming their body and losing their life as a result.
- Recurrent episodes of binge eating, that is, eating a large amount of food in a short amount of time with a strong lack of control and feelings of not being able to stop eating.
- Behavior that attempts to compensate for the overeating such as self-induced vomiting, misuse of laxatives, frequent fasting, or excessive exercise.
In the initial stages of this disorder, the compensatory behavior, such as binging, is a way to ease the guilt from having eaten so much food. However, later it becomes a method of mood regulation.
Binge Eating Disorder
This disorder is characterized by the repeated experience of eating a large amount of food within a specific period of time, accompanied by a feeling of not being able to stop, or a lack of control. Binge eating is also characterized by eating more rapidly than normal, eating alone, eating a large amount of food even despite not feeling hungry, eating until the body is uncomfortable, and feeling disgusted or guilty later. With Binge Eating Disorder (BED) there is usually a pattern of binge eating at least 2 times per week for at least 6 months.
It’s important for Connecticut as well as the rest of the country to keep the conversation going and to deepen our understanding of the relationships we have with food, our bodies, and with each other and encourage those who need help to seek teen eating disorder treatment.
Kim, Victoria. (August 15, 2015). Increasing Number of Connecticut Youth Are Affected By Eating Disorders. The Fix. Retrieved on August 15, 2014 from: http://www.thefix.com/content/increasing-number-connecticut-youth-are-affected-eating-disorders
By Robert Hunt
If you are reading this on any blog other than Paradigm Malibu or via my RSS Feed, it is stolen content without credit.
You can find me on Twitter via @RecoveryRobert
Come and visit our blog at https://paradigmmalibu.com/blog