Signals that the prevalence of eating disorders is rising

July 12, 2006

People of all ages struggle with body weight, but recent statistics out of a treatment facility for eating disorders show an alarming trend on several fronts: 63% of elementary school teachers are concerned with eating disorders in their classrooms; 80% of pre-teenage girls are dieting, and those who diet are eight times more likely to develop an eating disorder; 81% of 10-year-olds are afraid of becoming fat; and more than 50% of 9- and 10-year-olds report feeling better when dieting.

People of all ages struggle with body weight, but recent statistics out of a treatment facility for eating disorders show an alarming trend on several fronts: 63% of elementary school teachers are concerned with eating disorders in their classrooms; 80% of pre-teenage girls are dieting, and those who diet are eight times more likely to develop an eating disorder; 81% of 10-year-olds are afraid of becoming fat; and more than 50% of 9- and 10-year-olds report feeling better when dieting.

"We have seen a 300% increase in the number of calls from preteen patients," said Amy Gerberry, program director and therapist at Remuda Ranch's children's program in Wickenburg, Ariz. "Eating disorders are increasing rapidly in preteen girls. It's because of our culture's obsession with dieting and thinness."

"Children are being targeted with messages and products promoting diets and body image dissatisfaction," adds Gerberry. "There are more and more sexualized and objectified images of children in the media today than in the past."

Gerberry also points out that the rise in eating disorders is being accelerated by a declining age of menarche among American females. Menarche can be a trigger for eating disorders in girls who are fearful or apprehensive about maturing physically.

Common signs of an eating disorder include weight loss, an increase in exercise to an excessive level, increased isolation, decreased desire to participate in social activities, obsession with weight and body, and an increase in secretive, sneaky behavior.