Just How Bad Can An Eating Disorder Really Be?

By Gracie Bonds Staples
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Of the tens of millions of people suffering from eating disorders, the majority don’t even seek treatment because they are embarrassed, in denial or don’t have the social and financial support they need.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

To look at her now, you’d never guess Megan Higgins once avoided eating and didn’t care if she lived or died.

But for years before her parents realized she had a problem, Megan was rarely eating, and purging when she did, because that was the one thing she felt she could control.

She is hardly alone.

The reality is somewhere around 30 million Americans from all walks of life will be affected by eating disorders in their lifetime. And twice, maybe three times, as many suffer from what experts call subclinical eating disorders.

That doesn’t mean they’re not potentially just as harmful, but just that they may not meet all the criteria to get a psychiatric diagnosis.

Yet when we think of eating disorders, preteens aren’t normally what immediately comes to mind. White upper-middle-class teenage girls? Perhaps. Models and Hollywood starlets? Most likely.

Megan, a 21-year-old senior at Columbus State University, was just 12 when she started restricting her food intake to cope with her parents’ divorce and later, the stress of moving from a private to a public high school.

“I couldn’t control what was going on around me, but I could control what I was eating,” she explained recently.

By her sophomore year of high school, it had started to take a toll on her physically and mentally. Instead of depriving herself of food, Megan began vomiting to purge. Although she was never clinically underweight, she appeared pale and swollen-faced.

According to Laura McLain, site director at the Renfrew Center in Sandy Springs, eating disorders can run the gamut, but binge eating is the most common, followed by anorexia, restricting one’s food intake, and bulimia, typically engaging in binge eating and restricting episodes and compensatory behaviors such as purging, exercising, and abusing laxatives.

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