Health Department: Eating Disorders Among Youth Increasing, Support Needed for Recovery

Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine joined members of the legislature and eating disorder advocates to raise awareness about the prevalence of eating disorders and emphasize the need for resources useful to recovery.

“Eating disorders are serious health conditions that can affect individuals of any gender, age, race, ethnicity or lifestyle,” Dr. Levine said. “The prevalence of eating disorders has continued to increase and is one of the top five most common illnesses among American teens. It is essential that everyone, especially parents, know the signs and symptoms of eating disorders so we can help connect those who are suffering with the support they need.”

The warning signs of eating disorders, which are physical, emotional and behavioral in nature, can vary depending on the disorder. Generally, behaviors and attitudes that are fixated on weight loss, dieting or control of food are warning signs.

Stereotypes usually link eating disorders to young women; however, about one in three people struggling with an eating disorder is a man; eating disorder behaviors are nearly as common among men as they are among women. Nearly all eating disorders have serious health implications.

“Eating disorders can affect every organ system in the body, including the cardiovascular system, gastrointestinal system, neurological system and endocrine system, and can be deadly,” Dr. Levine said. “One person dies every 62 minutes as a direct result of an eating disorder, which is why it is so important that those struggling with an eating disorder get professional help. The earlier a person with an eating disorder seeks treatment, the greater the chances of recovery.”

Getting diagnosed is the first step towards recovering from an eating disorder and involves a combination of psychological and nutritional counseling, in addition to medical and psychiatric monitoring. Treatment can be delivered in many different settings, depending on the patient.

Anyone looking for support, information, referrals and guidance about eating disorders, either for themselves or a loved one, can contact the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.