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Eating disorders are not a fad diet or an experiment to lose weight, but they are serious complex disorders that can take many years to recover from. Eating disorders affect five percent of women and one percent of men in the United States. The South Carolina Mental Health Department reports that five to ten percent of girls with eating disorders will die within ten years of having the disease. ("Statstics Eating" INT) Teenagers need to be aware of the warning signs, risk factors, and long and short term consequences of eating disorders.

“Eating disorders result from a complicated interaction of biological, psychological, and social factors” (Ciotola DB). There is no clear cause of eating disorders, but they can be a result of many things. “Although concerns about weight and body shape play a role in all eating disorders, the actual cause of these disorders appear to result from many factors, including cultural and family pressures and emotional and personality disorders.” (INT) Warning signs of eating disorders can either be very noticeable and very subtle. Anorexia, a reduced appetite or aversion to food, involves avoiding situations including food, an intense fear of gaining weight, and strange food rituals. People with bulimia, excessive eating followed by purging, consume a massive amount of calories and then get rid of the food by vomiting or using laxatives.

There are many ways to try and prevent an eating disorder from devloping. But, studies show that if you teach teens directly about eating disorders this can make them seem glamouros. ("Parents Act" INT) Therefore, prevention should not directly be associated with eating disorders but, with having a healthy lifestyle and acepting all people no matter what size they are. Since eating disorders usually devlop in teens and children, schools can help prevent eating disorders. Teachers and school counclers should have a general knowdgle on eating disorders. Schools can also help with prevention of eating disorders by holding after school support groups. Theese suppoort groups should engourage healthy lifestyle and eating habbits, but not dieting. These groups should also empower girls to feel good about their bodies no matter what size they are and also give girls a place where they can talk about the pressures to be thin that comes from peers and the media.

"A wide variety of factors have been considered important in the onset of eating disorders. Scientific studies of many of these factors have been inconclusive in verifying that they do indeed increase the risk of eating disorders. " (INT) There are many risk factors for eating disorders that need to be recognized. Gender, age, and family history all may contribute to the development of an eating disorder. Other key factors may also include emotional disorders, dieting, life transitions, and various sports and work activities.

Even though eating disorders are found in males, females are more likely to develop them. Five percent of women and one percent of men in the United States are affected by eating disorders. Pre-teen and teen girls are at a higher risk than any other age or gender group. In a nationwide study, it was discovered that 12.3% of high school students have gone without eating for 24 hours or more to lose weight or to keep from gaining weight. (“Youth Risk” INT)

Family history, morals, and values can all contribute to the development of an eating disorder. Eating disorders are more likely to occur in people when someone in their family has struggled with the disorder in the past. Emphasis on outward appearance or physical traits can make a person become obsessed with looking perfect. If a person is put under a large amount of pressure and stress by their parents to be successful, an eating disorder can develop. Eating disorders can also develop because the person feels that she has lost all control in her life, and food is something she can control. If physical, sexual, or...
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