Eating disorders flying under the radar

August 21, 2012

Eating disorders are increasingly overlooked in Australia because society is too focused on obesity prevention, a leading Flinders University psychologist says.

expert Professor Tracey Wade (pictured) says the ever-increasing spotlight on is detracting attention from – despite statistics showing that binge eating and fasting have doubled in SA from 1998 to 2008, and that 23 per cent of young Australian women have experienced disordered eating in the past 12 months.

“If you asked people what’s worse, being overweight or having an eating disorder, a lot of people would probably say obesity but are quite destructive because they cause depression, anxiety, a number of health problems and even shorten lives,” Professor Wade, based in the School of Psychology, said.

“Over the years society has tried to overcome racism, homophobia and sexism because we regard them as bad things but a lot of people look at fat people and think there’s something wrong with them and that they should be in the out group,” she said.

“People have a personal reaction to obesity so it captures a lot of media and emotional attention, which tends to detract from eating disorders, but there’s no reason why the two should compete – obesity is a different problem that just happens to be a weight problem.”

The under-diagnosis of eating disorders will be among the issues canvassed at the 10th Annual Conference of the Australia and New Zealand Academy for Eating Disorders, held at the Crowne Plaza Adelaide from August 23-25.

Co-sponsored by Flinders University, the conference will bring together more than 250 body image and mental health experts – including Flinders Professor Marika Tiggemann as a keynote speaker – to present research on the theme ‘One decade on, where are we now?’

Professor Wade, who is the scientific convenor of the conference, said aside from the increased societal emphasis on , eating disorders were also overlooked in the promotion and awareness of mental health.

“Eating disorders are like the poor cousins in the mental health family,” she said.

“We tend to hear a lot nowadays about depression, anxiety and psychosis yet eating disorders often aren’t featured in the information about mental health, even though it’s a serious mental illness.”

Professor Wade said it was important to debunk the common myth that eating disorders were “just a trivial problem about dieting”.

“The public perception is that it’s all about being vain and wanting to be thin – people don’t understand that not eating is a symptom of a serious problem.

“A lot of the time you get your media celebrity types who lose a bit of weight and the whole issue becomes a spectator sport, it’s almost glamorised in a way.

“People need to understand what an eating disorder is rather than what it ends up looking like.”

Explore further: One in ten kids have taste problems

Related Stories

One in ten kids have taste problems

April 18, 2011

The prevalence of taste disorders in Australian children could be three times above the level defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a major public health crisis, new UNSW research has found.

Uncertainty fear and eating disorders linked

November 16, 2011

People who fear the unknown or view uncertainty as especially negative or threatening are more likely to report symptoms of eating disorders, according to new ANU research.

Red meat found to be a good mood food

March 20, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- Deakin University health researchers have found that eating less than the recommended amount of red meat is related to depression and anxiety in women.

Recommended for you

Older people getting smarter, but not fitter

August 31, 2015

Older populations are scoring better on cognitive tests than people of the same age did in the past —a trend that could be linked to higher education rates and increased use of technology in our daily lives, say IIASA population ...

Higher intelligence score means better physical performance

August 14, 2015

New research reveals a distinct association between male intelligence in early adulthood and their subsequent midlife physical performance. The higher intelligence score, the better physical performance, the study reveals. ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.