Why are these such a big deal?
Eating disorders affect people from all genders, races, and sexual orientations. At least 30 million people in the world suffer from an eating disorder. This is a problem because about one person every hour dies as a result, making it the mental illness with the highest death rate. There are many factors that can contribute to make people prone to developing an eating disorder such as genetics, environmental factors, and personality traits. There are four main eating disorders, however for my research I focused on two in specific because those are the ones that are most prevalent in my community.
- Affects people of all ages, genders, sexual orientations, race, and ethnicity.
- 1 in 10 women will suffer from Anorexia in their lifetime.
- 50-80% of the risk to develop Anorexia Nervosa is genetic.
- Characterized by weight loss, difficulties maintaining appropriate weight for ones height, age, or stature, and distorted body image.
- Often begins with calorie restriction and often progresses to over exercise and food obsession.
- Obsession from food can usually be traced to an anxiety disorder, as approximately 50% of sufferers also have a diagnosed anxiety disorder.
- Bulimia Nervosa also affects people of all genders, ages, sexual orientations, race, and ethnicity.
- 50-80% of the risk of developing Bulimia Nervosa is genetic.
- Characterized by recurrent episodes of binge eating, and inappropriate behavior to prevent weight gain (Binge eating is eating an amount of food during a discrete period of time that is larger than most people would eat in a similar period of time and under similar circumstances).
- Inappropriate behaviors to prevent weight gain include self induced vomiting, the use of laxatives, diuretics, fasting, and excessive exercise.
- In order to be diagnosed with Bulimia Nervosa, both binge eating along with at least one other symptom of inappropriate behavior must occur at least once a week for three months.
Symptoms and Warning Signs
One of the main assumptions that people have about eating disorders is that they are a body-hating illness. While this can definitely be the cause for some people, there are plenty of other factors that could also lead to the development of an eating disorder. One of these factors is control. Often times when people are suffering from an anxiety disorder or just feel like they do not have control of their life at a specific time they start to focus control on anything that they can, in this case it would be food. This leads to the obsessiveness with portioning food, counting calories, restricting diet, purging, etc. Some other factors that can lead to the development of an eating disorder are genetics and personality traits. A large portion of people who suffer from eating disorders have genetic and personality traits that are linked to perfectionism and obsessiveness. One of the goals of my project is to educate my community about the factors that put people at risk of developing eating disorders and to break down the stigma so that people realize that they run a lot deeper than just body hatred.
Analyzing Factors in the Silicon Valley
One of the main parts of my project was to take all of my research and analyze the factors in Silicon Valley that are contributing to the development of eating disorders in teens. Through interviewing an occupational therapist in my area, I was able to identify factors specific to Silicon Valley that align with my other research. Silicon Valley is a very affluent community with a lot of very accomplished people which leads to high expectations for the kids living in the community. This then contributes to a lack of control that teenagers feel in their own lives. There is an enormous amount of pressure from multiple outside sources such as parents, college counselors, teachers, each other, coaches, etc. to be successful, however, there are not enough accessible resources for mental health once those pressures are exacerbated on students. Students are expected to maintain good grades, take AP courses, and get into a top university while maintaining mental stability. One of the main issues that I was able to identify is that mental health in Silicon Valley is rarely addressed. It is an unspoken issue that people are expected to deal with privately and there are not enough resources for students to get the support that they need to deal with all of the pressures of the area.
Eliminating these Factors
- Changing expectations
- Less expectations→ less pressure to excel in all aspects
- Modifying perspective on what’s important for teens
- Prioritize mental health above success
- Maintain healthy balance by making time to relieve pressure
- No balance can lead to feeling overwhelmed and controlless
How well do your parents know you? Take the Survey!
This is a survey that I created that I would love for you to fill out about how well your parents really know you: https://goo.gl/forms/4WjKGhop48eRKnpw1 (it is completely anonymous)
Along with educating the students in my community, my other main goal is to educate parents on ways that they can support their children in order to take steps to prevent the development of an eating disorder before it’s too late. I also wanted to educate parents on how they can recognize these symptoms so that they can help their child. I made a pamphlet with information about what contributes to developing an eating disorder, the warning signs, and ways that parents can lessen the odds for their own children.
I wanted to do this because I interviewed one of my friends who struggled with anorexias mom. She said that she had always believed that she would be able to spot the signs of an eating disorder in her own children because her sister had struggled with one when she was younger, however this was not the case. She also said that treatment was both hard on her and my friend because she had to supervise all of her meals and force her to eat which made my friend hate her because she basically had to give her “medicine” which was food. I want to limit the strain that eating disorders put on familial relationships as well by educating parents on how to support their children and take preventative measures.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, call the helpline at (800) 931-2237
“About Eating Disorders.” ANAD Your Future Is Worth Fighting For , National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, www.anad.org/.
“Anorexia Nervosa.” NEDA Feeding Hope, National Eating Disorders Association, www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/.
“Bulimia Nervosa.” NEDA Feeding Hope, National Eating Disorders Association, www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/.
Ramsey, Meaghan. Why Thinking You’re Ugly Is Bad For You. TED, TED Conferences, Sept. 2014.
Staff, Casa Palmera. “5 Ways Parents Can Prevent Eating Disorders.” Casa Palmera , Casa Palmera Treatment Center, 15 Jan. 2015, casapalmera.com/blog/5-ways-parents-can-prevent-eating-disorders/.
“Types of Treatment.” NEDA Feeding Hope, National Eating Disorders Association, www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/.