Eating disorders can affect anyone--no matter what their gender, race, age, sexual preference, profession, religious or cultural background. Consider this:
One out of ten anorexia or bulimia sufferers is male.
About 50% of people with binge eating disorder are males.
Binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder in the United States
Children as young as four years old can develop eating disorders
Individuals in their 40s, 50s, and 60s can also suffer from eating disorders, either having developed them during adolescence or even in mid-life.
Even though anorexia has the highest mortality rate of all eating disorders, every form of this disease can do serious, long-term damage to the body and in extreme cases end in the sufferer's death, most commonly by cardiac arrest or suicide.
Eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes. In many cases, it is not possible to tell if someone has an eating disorder simply by looking at them. Most sufferers look "normal." In fact, that can be one of the most dangerous things about this disease - sufferers can hide them perfectly for months, years and sometimes, even a lifetime.
Most anorexics don't look like the extreme cases shown on television (ie. like walking skeletons). Such a person may look thin, but don't necessarily look "sick".
Bulimics often look to have a healthy weight.
Binge Eaters are usually overweight but because most of the Western world has a substantial number of overweight individuals anyways, they tend to blend in.
Contrary to popular belief, eating disorders are not about food, weight, appearance or beauty. They are an attempt to use food and weight to deal with underlying psychological problems. An eating disorder is simply the symptom of something deeper going on inside.
Because eating disorders are not about food, saying "just eat" to an anorexic, "stop purging" to a bulimic or "stop eating so much" to a binge eater does not help.
Eating disorders are a complex disorder and require the assistance of both a trained professional and a willingness by the sufferer to want to get better in the first place.
Full recovery from an eating disorder is possible. In fact, it's more common to recover than not. All it takes is a willingness to get better, as well as help and support from friends, family and trained professionals.
If you unfortunately suffer from an eating disorder, know that you are not alone. Reach out for help and support to get you started on your road to recovery.