Eating disorders are often misunderstood and sometimes, even considered a lifestyle choice. The reality, however, is that eating disorders are severe psychiatric illnesses with a complex etiology, thought to be caused by a complicated interplay of biological, psychological, and environmental factors. Adolescence, the age when eating disorders tend to emerge, is a time of particular vulnerability and stress, leading to increased propensity for both disordered eating and eating disorders.
The number of clinically diagnosed eating disorder cases worldwide is between 0.5% and 3% of the general population with some experts putting the number closer to 12%. They are often chronic, debilitating, and result in a significant reduction to the affected person’s quality of life. Eating disorders have high co-morbidity with other mental disorders and significant treatment resistance. And, after all our years of studying their causes and onset, there is still not a clear understanding or treatment of them. That is why prevention of them is so critical, but also so relevant to adolescents. Prevention programs have been proven successful when tailored properly and have long-lasting effects on participants.