The Enemy Within
11/08/2001 AT 12:54 PM EST
Q: We think of anorexia as a disease of teenage girls. Is that true?
A: No. We're dealing now with kids as young as 5 or 6. We're also seeing anorexia in men dramatically increase. It used to be 20 to 1, female to male; now it's 10 to 1. Males are becoming preoccupied with body image, with the concept of being buff. African-Americans, who 10 years ago were not preoccupied with the thin look, have begun to develop eating disorders.
Q: What causes anorexia?
A: No one is really sure. There are probably genetic precursors. We see it running through families. It can be triggered by the example of parents who are preoccupied by their own body images. It certainly is caused by nature as well as nurture.
Q: What are anorexia's long-term effects?
A: They include bone loss, possible cardiac irregularities, kidney failure and sudden death. There's also a link to infertility in women.
Q: How hard is it to recover from anorexia?
A: It's very difficult to recover from any eating disorder. We use the word recovery; we never talk about a cure. The underlying eating-disorder mentality is always there. Weight gain is not in itself recovery-it is often the last thing that occurs as the eating disorder stabilizes. Recovery comes from beginning to understand oneself and beginning to accept that person.
Q: Are anorexia recovery rates improving?
A: Actually, relapse rates are getting worse. According to studies, up to two-thirds of recovering anorexics relapse on a regular basis.