Do athletes get eating disorders more than non-athletes?

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There are some sports prone to weight loss and eating disorders however the research has not been able to show a correlation between athletes and eating disorders. 

“Anorexia is more frequently found in athletes or professions that require thinness, such as modeling or ballet” (WebMD, 2003). Powers and Johnson (2003) further add to the list of at risk athletes by adding, gymnastics, figure skating, swimming and distance running. These are the “athletes (who) tend to be highly competitive, high achieving, and self disciplined individuals; who go to great lengths to excel in their sports. This personality type combined with the expectations of team mates and coaches as well as the spectators may make them at a higher risk of developing an eating disorder than the average person” (What You Need To Know About, n.d.). However, it is very difficult to identify athletes with eating disorders. They are often secretive or concerned about what the perception might be from their coaches, parents and friends.

Athletes, especially in "make-weight" sports, are particularly vulnerable to developing eating disorders. "Make-weight" sports are either formal (you must achieve a certain scale weight to compete in a weight class like wrestling or boxing) or informal (i.e. the culture of the sport imposes a particular body aesthetic like gymnastics or dance). Sometimes, coaches, family members, and others may encourage teens in certain sports to try to achieve an unhealthy weight or physique and to shed body fat at a time when they are biologically destined to gain it. If you participate in these sports, you should be extra vigilant to protect your health and body first, and keep the demands of the sport in perspective. If you think you are being influenced by the sport (or coach), seek the help of a guidance counselor, nurse, or parent with whom you can share your concerns.

Continue Learning about Eating Disorders Causes & Risk Factors

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.