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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

UAlbany: Low Rates of Help-seeking for Eating Disorder Symptoms

Eating disorders (EDs) are associated with numerous medical complications along with psychosocial functional impairment. With such severe complications, it’s important that persons with these disorders receive the necessary treatment that will enable them to lead healthier lives. But how many people seek out help for their ED symptoms and utilize treatment?

A U.S. population-based study from the University at Albany and Yale University, published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, highlighted low rates of help seeking among individuals with EDs.

Dr. Tomoko Udo and colleagues studied a nationally-representative sample of 36,309 adults through the 2012-2013 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions, which included information on EDs and help-seeking for ED symptoms.

Estimates for seeking any help for three different EDs — anorexia nervosa (AN), bulimia nervosa (BN), and binge-eating-disorder (BED) — were 34.5 percent, 62.6 percent, and 49 percent, respectively. Overall, utilization of a counselor or psychologist was particularly low for AN (28.1 percent) and BED (36.0 percent).

For BED, characterized by overeating in a short time period with a loss of control at least one time per week for three months, men and ethnic/racial minorities were much less likely to seek help than women or whites. Hispanics were also less likely to seek help for anorexia nervosa. These sex differences may be due to heightened stigma surrounding EDs for men, which is often reported as a barrier to treatment utilization.

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