Genevans Learn about Eating Disorders at Seminar
Byline: Beth Bales
It's more than a little ironic that in a nation that is becoming more and more obese, eating disorders are a problem for many families.
And a problem they are. For that reason, the Geneva Coalition for Youth held a seminar recently on eating disorders, to educate parents, teachers, students and others about the signs and symptoms, as well as treatment, support and resources.
Teens told coalition members that eating disorders are a serious issue that needs to be discussed, said member Mary Lu O'Halloran. Packets of information on the topic as well as a DVD of the presentation will be available in schools and from the group soon.
"Up to 10 million females and 1 million males have anorexia or bulimia," Kammie Juzwin of Alexian Brothers Behavioral Health Hospital, told the group, adding it's believed the figure for bulimics - those who purge what they eat after consuming it - is low.
But fewer than 30 percent of the people who suffer from anorexia nervosa and less than 6 percent of bulimics receive mental health care.
Even more troubling, she said, the rate of bulimia in people 10 - 10! years old!! -to 39 has increased threefold from 1988 to 1993. And therapists and doctors are seeing an increasing number of diagnosable cases in children ages 5 to 8.
"For girls 15 to 24, the mortality rate of anorexia is 12 times higher than all other causes of death," Juzwin said. "It's an awful, awful lifestyle."
Many people don't realize that, despite the name, eating disorders aren't necessarily about food. "They're often about control gone awry, and misdirected self-management," Juzwin said. And the organization emphasizes that an eating disorder is not a choice, but an illness.
Various patterns of atypical eating, plus an eating disorder itself, can "develop into lifelong patterns that influence every aspect of someone's life," Juzwin said.
Juzwin has much experience working with people affected by eating disorders. She mentioned one patient, who would spend perhaps $45 a day, driving from one fast food place to another, consuming the food and then carefully regurgitating it, before repeating the process. This would happen even on the way to therapy, an irony Juzwin said she pointed out to the patient.
"Eating disorders are complex conditions that can arise from a variety of potential causes," Juzwin said. And they require professional help, she stressed. That help is not cheap, either, and will involve more than just the sufferer. "It will be very inconvenient, expensive and involve everyone in the family," she said. "It's a long-term process, involving a great deal of resources, including time, energy, effort and finances. …