Study reveals why youngsters with eating disorders are unable to seek help

A new study found that people with eating disorders sought help “too late”. Most of them cited reasons like the fear of being a burden to others, embarrasment, fear of losing control over their eating habits and weight, denial and failure to perceive the severity of illness, researchers found.

Eating disorders are illnesses where people suffer disturbances in their eating behaviours and related thoughts and emotions, according to the American Psychiatric Association. The three common types of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder.

Published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders, the study conducted an online survey of almost 300 Australian young adults aged 18-25 years, who suffered major eating, weight and body shape concerns. Those with anorexia or bulimia were also found to delay treatment.

“Not wanting others to worry about their problems was the highest endorsed barrier – it reflects the wish for autonomy and also the fear of being a burden to others in this group of young adults,” Kathina Ali, research associate, psychology, Flinders University, was quoted as saying.

“Concerningly, only a minority of people with eating disorder symptoms had sought professional help and few believed they needed help despite the problems they were experiencing,” co-author Dr Fassnacht, psychology lecturer, Flinders University, added.

There is an increasing need to educate and raise awareness among people about the severity and impact of eating disorders, and how the symptoms can get worse without any medical intervention, researchers advised.