There are a lot of troubling statistics when it comes to young women and eating disorders in the U.S. For example, according to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), “At any given point in time between 0.3-0.4% of young women and 0.1% of young men will suffer from anorexia nervosa.” Also, keep in mind that this is just one of the types of eating disorders.
There are many types of eating disorders and they are all present in the young female population. Eating disorders are one the more common and serious issues facing young women today. Their prevalence has been compounded by both the COVID-19 pandemic and the uptick in social media influencers who body shame and offer unfounded nutritional advice. However, understanding the various types of eating disorders, the warning signs to look out for, and the treatments available can go a long way in getting a struggling young woman help sooner rather than later.
Understanding Eating Disorders
Though eating disorders are a pretty common topic in today’s mental health conversations, there is still a lot of information to be gleaned. For example, there are many types of eating disorders and this also includes the category of “disordered eating.”
In their publication, Eating Disorders, Drs. Balasundaram and Santhanam offer a base definition. They write, “Eating disorders are defined as the disruption in the eating behavior with excessive concern about body weight that impairs physical health or psychosocial functioning.” Also, they remind us that “Eating disorders can present as severe psychiatric illnesses associated with high rates of morbidity and mortality.”
Understanding the Different Types of Eating Disorders
It is also important to understand that not all eating disorders are created equally. While this seems obvious, many people often get them mixed up. Although many of them have some overlapping characteristics, others share little in common besides their categorization.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, (DSM-5), there are essentially nine types of eating disorders. These are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, avoidant or restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID), pica, rumination, specified eating disorders, and unspecified eating disorders.
Let’s clarify a little more about those last two categories of eating disorders: specified and unspecified eating disorders. Specified eating disorders include types of disordered eating like purging disorder, night feeding disorder, and orthorexia (an obsession with healthy eating). Unspecified eating disorders are those that are similar to the eating disorders listed but they do not meet the clinical threshold for them. However, this should not make those symptoms any less concerning.
What Types of Eating Disorders Are Most Common?
While all of those eating disorders listed should be considered highly problematic and warrant professional help, three types of eating disorders are the most common. This is true for all populations including the population of young women.
The three most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. Because of their more common nature, it is crucial that they are better understood. As one understands their red flags better, it’s more likely that help can be sought sooner rather than later. All three of these disorders share very similar characteristics. However, they each focus specifically on a certain part.
Anorexia nervosa has to do with the fear of gaining weight. This fear will cause an individual to make unhealthy decisions to ensure that weight gain does not occur. Bulimia nervosa involves the compulsion to binge eat and the need to “purge” afterward for fear of gaining any weight. Binge eating consists of the compulsion to eat to excess and loss of control over it. However, with binge eating, there is no compulsion to lose weight. Still, there is often a significant amount of guilt around their disordered eating behaviors.
Effective Treatment Options for Eating Disorders
The good news is that just as there are many types of eating disorders, there are also many types of treatments available for combatting them. Most of these treatment modalities reside in the realm of therapy and/or psychotherapy.
Perhaps the most commonly administered type of psychotherapy regarding eating disorders is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). A reason for this is that CBT can get to the underlying issues of an eating disorder. It is important to remember that eating disorders are rarely about the food itself. Instead, they are about maintaining control and having disordered associations with eating and body image (though of course there are many other reasons as well).
The Importance of Individualized Care at Clearview Girls Academy
Here at Clearview Girls Academy, we do not judge our students by what it says on their chart or what is in their files. Sure, this information is important, but we do not treat disorders here. We treat people.
Every one of our students is treated like the individual they are. In approaching our students in this way, we can make the most customized plan to help them recover in the long term. We like to say that “we light our students’ path to recovery.” Our staff members make sure that they do this by putting a spotlight on each student. With this individualized spotlight, we aim to highlight all of their success now and in the future.
Eating disorders and disordered eating have long been an issue troubling young women. However, in recent years, the number of young women struggling with these issues has been on a steady incline. One of the reasons for this is the nutrition misinformation and body image deception that is now prevalent online. Yet, regardless of the reason, eating disorders must be treated ASAP. If you feel like your daughter is struggling with an eating disorder or disordered eating, please know that you are not alone. We can help get your entire family onto the right road to long-term recovery. For more information on treatment modalities and recovery programs for eating disorders, reach out to Clearview Girls Academy today at (888) 796-5484.