4th November 2016 – Cosmopolitan – The Rise of the High Functioning Anorexic

Doctors in England report a steady rise in female eating disorder patients over the age of 20, and the Renfrew Centre (which has 17 eating disorder clinics in the US) reported a 42% increase in women over 35 seeking help for eating disorders in 2011, too. The rise in post-adolescents seeking treatment comes during a time in which women are under a huge amount of societal pressure to not only look amazing, but be successful – and do it all on the public platform.

The University Of Pittsburgh School Of Medicine observed more than 1,700 adults between the ages of 19 and 32, and found those who checked social media frequently were 2.6 times more likely to report an eating disorder. Women in particular are drawn more to visual apps, such as Instagram or Pinterest, which are rife with opportunities for unhealthy comparisons.

“If women are increasingly pressured to ‘have it all’, then we predict a rise in the number of successful women suffering from anorexia,” explains Dr Ian Frampton, senior lecturer in development neuropsychology at Exeter University.

“Our research has shown that some people are biologically predisposed to becoming complete perfectionists – they are really driven, have immensely high standards and work exceptionally hard. You’ll find that many of the men and women holding down today’s highest positions possess this unique brain wiring.”

Of course, we all strive to be excellent at something. And while not everyone with these qualities – which are clearly brilliant when used wisely – is vulnerable to an eating disorder, the risk rises when something triggers dieting.

“We have also seen highly stressful jobs serve as a trigger to anorexia,” says Dr Joanna Silver, lead therapist for eating disorders at the Nightingale Hospital, London. “Someone with an underlying disposition might start skipping a few meals, lose a bit of weight and get that adrenaline rush.”

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