Are Stereotypes Affecting How We Diagnose Eating Disorders?
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The Doctors discuss the stereotypes people have around eating disorders and share that these disorders exist amongst people of all different shapes and sizes. A University of Michigan study found that females are five times more likely to be diagnosed with an eating disorder than males. White people were two times more likely than people of color and overweight people are half as likely to be diagnosed.
Yet, the image of the anorexic young girl doesn't tell the whole story. Psychotherapist Dr. Mike Dow explains that anorexia is actually the least common eating disorder but ER physician Dr. Travis Stork notes it’s the most likely to get diagnosed. The most common: binge-eating.
Dr. Dow shares that he has treated people for eating disorders of all sizes and they all have something in common in how they talk to themselves. He shares that eating disorders first start in the head.
Dr. Dow highlights red flags that people can look for to spot friends or family members with possible eating disorders. He says if someone eats normally at meals but in the morning, you find all the food is gone in the kitchen, that may be a sign of binge eating disorder. Someone who often gets up during meals, possibly leaves things in the toilet, or has an issue with their teeth, may be bulimic.
Dr. Dow shares that men are much less likely to seek treatment for mental health than women. Zach joins The Doctors to share his struggle with bulimia and show people that the face of an eating disorder may not be what you expect. Zach is fit, toned, and looks healthy but he definitely needs help.
Zach explains that he was going through a lot of changes with a new job, a move, and the end of a relationship. He was stressed and using food to cope. He shares that after he put on 20 pounds he didn’t like the way he looked and decided to purge. From then on, he was purging after every single meal and also working out obsessively. He says he exercises seven days a week for about 2 – 4 hours per day. He knows that he definitely has an addiction.
Dr. Travis asks Zach to describe his binge/purge cycles. Zach says he would eat a lot and that made him feel good because it was how he dealt with stress. Then, he would feel guilty because he ate too much and would be afraid he would lose some of his results. When he would then purge, he would feel relief.
Dr. Dow asks if Zach ever had feelings of powerlessness or guilt. Zach says he did experience guilt because he would get compliments on his body. He would feel guilty that people assumed he had a high metabolism or these great secrets.
Zach is here because he is ready to get help and control over his disorder. He shares that he’s been dealing with this for a year and it was only a couple weeks ago that he told just one person. Today, he keeps his secret no more. The Doctors have arranged for Zach to have two months of out-patient treatment at Keystone Treatment.
Dr. Dow says Zach took the first step for anybody suffering which was to tell someone. He says as professionals, they can only help if you tell them about it.
“No matter who you are, male, female, big, small, white, black, the face of an eating disorder is not what we think it is,” says Dr. Travis. Click here for resources on eating disorders.