April 19, 2010 07:44
More than one in 10 teenagers suffer from eating disorders, trying to avoid food as much as possible or alternating between fasting and bingeing in an effort to lose weight, a study reveals.
A team of researchers led by Oh Sang-woo, a specialist in family medicine at Dongguk University Ilsan Hospital, surveyed 5,000 middle and high school students last November and found that 15 percent of female students and 9.9 percent of males have eating disorders.
Eating disorders appear frequently among teenage girls who have gone on crash diets, and the problem often continues into adulthood," said Lee Yong-ho, a neuropsychiatrist.
Eating disorders inhibit normal physical growth in teenagers and can result in long-term health problems. Because their parents are often unaware of the problem, many teenage sufferers miss crucial opportunities to get treatment.
"People suffering from anorexia stop eating and they end up weighing 15 percent, or in serious cases 30 to 40 percent, below their normal body weight," said Park Kyung-min, a psychiatrist at Ganggnam Severance Hospital. "Anorexics typically have a strong fear of gaining weight even though they are seriously underweight."
Anorexia prevents the body from functioning properly. If menstruation stops for more than three months during a diet, anorexia could be the cause.
Bulimia is another eating disorder, but in contrast to anorexia, bulimics are unable to control their eating. First they binge on food, then they vomit or take pills to induce diarrhea, and then repeat the process. If this type of behavior occurs more than twice a week and continues for three months, it could be considered bulimia.
Eating disorders are not simply a fixation on weight, but are often accompanied by depression, personality disorders and anxiety. As a result, many cases require psychiatric help.
"Teenagers with eating disorders often refuse to be treated, because they are fixated on losing weight," said Yu Bum-hee, a psychiatrist at Samsung Medical Center. "Parents need to make their children realize that eating disorders are not just problems about eating, but a disease that needs to be treated."
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