Athletes Hide Eating Disorders

Anorexia and Bulimia are common in athletes

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Eating disorders can develop in anyone, male or female, professional athlete or amateur. Diagnosing those problems in athletes who are seemingly in good shape can be difficult.

Anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are apparently more prevalent in athletic men and women than non-athletes. These are serious conditions that often are overlooked — or intentionally avoided — by individuals as well as coaches.

"Athletes should discuss eating disorder with their coach or therapist."

Alan Currie, M.D., a consultant psychiatrist and honorary clinical lecturer for the Assertive Outreach Team, Northumberland Tyne and Wear NHS Trust in the U.K., recently gave a speech about the increasing prevalence of eating disorders seen in athletes.

Jorunn Sundgot-Borgen, Ph.D, a physical activity professor, found that about 8 percent of male athletes have eating disorders, a rate that’s 16 times higher than non-athletic men. He also found that 20 percent of female athletes have an eating disorder, which is double the rate seen among non-athletic females.

Research on eating disorders among athletes was completed in 2004, but it's a topic that is as relevant as ever. Dr. Currie warns the sports environment to be aware of these potentially deadly conditions in athletes because they’re very difficult to spot.

Part of the problem is all the attention to diet and weight in organized sports.

Mental health is just as important as physical health. Therefore, coaches and teams should focus on both. "I think a lot of care should be taken to help athletes be confident, competitive, but informed about their eating habits early so that they dont have to face such trials and tribulations," adds James Crowell, fitness expert.

The sports world needs healthy athletes and it would help, says Dr. Currie, if the 2012 Olympics recognized the importance of mental and physical health because without mental health there is no physical health.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 9, 2011
Last Updated:
July 13, 2011