There is a large increase in eating disorders due to us as a culture being both celebrity-obsessed and body image conscious. Eating disorders were once fairly rare occurrences, and primarily affected women and people in specialized occupations such as dancing, running and gymnastics, where thinness was especially valued. Now eating disorders are being diagnosed among men as well as women, and they are not necessarily linked to a sport or profession. Eating disorders have become commonplace.
Most people believe that people suffering from eating disorders have problems with food. This is a misconception. The problems with food are only symptomatic of a psychological condition or illness. The illness starts with feelings of insecurity, depression, loneliness, inadequacy or pain. The person will often feel like they don't have control over their own life. Different sufferers will deal with this in different ways, depending on their temperament and personality. This determines the type of eating disorder they'll have.
With illnesses like Bulimia or Compulsive Eating, feelings of insecurity, loneliness and depression will trigger the need to "comfort eat", and the person will eat far too much, using food as a kind of emotional tranquilliser to make them numb to these upsetting feelings. With illnesses like Anorexia, where sufferers are often high achievers or perfectionists, starving themselves gives them a sense of control over a confusing and frightening world.
Once the disease takes hold, sufferers become trapped in a world of their own making, and become increasingly divorced from reality. It is this inability to see how much they are harming themselves that results in the thousands of deaths that happen every year. With intervention, proper education and counselling, full recovery is possible. For this reason, it's very important to learn the symptoms, so that it's possible to recognize them in yourself and others.