The increase in eating disorders among men, women and teens has become an alarming epidemic.
Feb. 24 marks the start of National Eating Disorders Week, a time to raise awareness of the illnesses that afflict about 25 million Americans.
While anorexia and bulimia were once considered "women's diseases," they are becoming increasingly prevalent among men and boys.
“Research shows that eating disorders are more common than we initially thought, and not only do they not just occur in young women, but they are actually common in men and boys," Dr. Alix Timko told CBS News Feb. 23.
Dr. Timko, a psychology professor and director of the Eating Disorder Research Program at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, said eating disorders wreak havoc on one's physical and emotional health, and can lead to suicide.
Eating disorders are marked by a preoccupation or dissatisfaction with body weight and appearance that lead to self-destructive behaviors such as extreme dieting, exercise bulimia, and excessive eating followed by purging.
“Eating disorders are not personal choices, diet fads or phases; they are severe and can be fatal,” said Timko. “In fact, anorexia nervosa has one of the highest overall mortality rates and the highest suicide rate of any psychiatric disorder.”
'You Are Not Alone'
Attorney and activist Brian Cuban (the brother of billionaire Mark Cuban) is an expert on eating disorders and body dysmorphic disorder, having suffered from anorexia, bulimia, BDD, and drug addiction for 27 years.
In an interview with me, Cuban revealed how deep-rooted body insecurities fueled a downward spiral into binge-eating, purging, and alcohol, drug and steroid addiction.
While people think of BDD and eating disorders as women's problems, Brian pointed out that they affect men and women equally. But it's rarely reported in the media because men are shamed into silence because they don't realize that many other men suffer from the same problems.
Brian is trying to change that by shining a spotlight on the damaging impact eating disorders and BDD have on men. He wants to change society's views about eating disorders and inspire the media to expand its focus of body dysmorphia, anorexia and bulimia to include men. Above all, Cuban wants those suffering in silence to realize there are others like them, and they, too, can overcome their personal demons just like he did.
In his unforgettable memoir, Shattered Image: My Triumph Over Body Dysmorphic Disorder, Brian revealed how he overcame anorexia, bulimia and poor body image through talk therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy. He has been completely free of all his addictions since 2007. It was a long, tough road, but Cuban said if he can do it, anyone can.
"No matter how alone you feel, there is someone out there who loves you and wants to help you," he said. "You are not alone."