There is good news and bad news. The bad news is that more than half a million adolescents in the United States could qualify for a diagnosed eating disorder according to research published at Archives of General Psychiatry. The study included structured interviews with more than 10,000 teenagers and their parents. The good news is that more than half a million is just under three percent of adolescents.
It is estimated than 0.3 percent of teens will suffer from anorexia nervosa, 0.9 percent will suffer from bulimia nervosa, and 1.6 percent will suffer from binge-eating disorder. Although many of the kids will experience some mental health treatment, it is generally not eating disorder specific.
While I am glad to read a low percentage of teens experience eating disorders, it is essential that proper treatment is provided to those kids that need it. Eating disorders require special treatment by a trained professional and often a team of professionals. The best treatments with which I am familiar include medical professionals, nutritionists, counselors, psychiatrists, and peer groups. Eating disorders are complicated syndromes that must take into account and treat a variety of factors.
While this research provides information about adolescents and eating disorders, eating disorders may not develop until the early twenties. It would be interesting to see similar research on the prevalence of disordered eating criteria for that age range.
March 18th, 2011