SALT LAKE CITY — During a stage of life frequently portrayed in movies and other media as carefree and exhilarating, many teens are consumed by a dangerous disorder.
Approximately a half million teens struggle with eating disorders or disordered eating, according to the National Eating Disorders Association. The median ages for the onset of eating disorders is 12–13 years old, and the associated risks include "functional impairment and suicidality."
In an effort to increase awareness and early intervention, schools, clubs and organizations across the United States will be marking National Eating Disorder Awareness Week from Feb. 24 to March 2.
Many of the activity suggestions for NED Awareness week provided on NEDA's website include ideas for teachers of grade school and high school students. The focus on these age groups stems from a 2011 study about young girls and body image.
"By age 6, girls especially start to express concerns about their own weight or shape. Forty to 60 percent of elementary school girls (ages 6-12) are concerned about their weight or about becoming too fat," according to "Body Image: A Handbook of Science, Practice and Prevention."
In a Deseret News article about the pressure of perfection young girls face today, reporter Mandy Morgan draws a connection between nutritional deficiencies of the body and emotional deficiencies with a quote from Dr. Leonard Sax about "anorexia of the soul" and a parent's responsibility.
"All of these girls feel like they have to be effortlessly perfect in academics and athletics and personal appearance," Sax said. "These girls who have anorexia of the soul may have anorexia of the body, they may cut, they may have an obsession with fitness; it's a very important role of the parents to figure that out."