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Who Is Likely to Develop an Eating Disorder?

The one thing that all those who suffer from eating disorders have in common is a history of dieting. Generally speaking, bright, energetic, attractive, conscientious, hard-working people of all races and economic classes get eating disorders.

Ninety to 95 percent of those who develop an eating disorder are female. They are most often between the ages of 12 and 25, although some cases have been reported in people much younger and much older. People who are vulnerable to eating disorders also may have relationship problems, biological predispositions, and psychological disturbances that change their thinking.

Eating disorders may develop when a person is young, but can recur in middle age. Often the person has suffered silently for many years. By midlife, the disease is more about easing tension, anxiety, and anger than appearance. Worry about passing the disease to their children is what brings many sufferers to seek treatment.

Tragically, a person with an eating disorder strives for control and self-esteem. But the disease produces the opposite effect. A person with an eating disorder may find that she must struggle with any of the following psychological problems in addition to the physical symptoms:

  • Feels hopeless. May give up and sink into fatalism or denial.

  • Feels out of control and helpless to do anything about her problems.

  • Suffers from anxiety and self-doubt.

  • Feels guilt and shame.

  • Fears being discovered.

  • Has obsessive thoughts and preoccupation with food and eating.

  • Struggles with anger and suppressed anger.

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