New numbers paint a grim picture of eating disorders in America. The numbers are being released as part of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. The National Eating Disorder Association says 42% of first through third grade girls want to be thinner, and 50% of adolescent girls crash diet, purge or take diet pills.
Eating disorder experts say the key to preventing full blown eating disorders is to catch them early, and since more and more youth and adolescents are falling victim, OU Children's Hospital has stepped up with new treatment options.
The brand new wing at OU is now accepting patients. The wing is specifically designed for adolescent health.
OU Adolescent Eating Disorder Specialist Dr. Amy Middleman said, "We've already seen a really full range of patients in Oklahoma City."
Most of the patients are struggling with eating disorders, and until now, there has only been one other in-patient facility in our state, in Tulsa.
"That's really gratifying to be able to help those patients in a way that they haven't been able to be helped before," said Dr. Middleman.
Patient rooms are specially equipped with systems that help support eating disorder patients. Each room has a camera that is monitored by nurses 24/7. The equipment makes it possible for doctors to address all of the physical and mental affects.
"The real key to eating disorder treatment is psychological care. We provide that, but patients do get into trouble medically, and we can also address those issues," said Dr. Middleman.
Jennifer Carlson, from the Oklahoma Eating Disorder Association says, "We're averaging maybe 400,000 people that have had or currently have an eating disorder in Oklahoma."
Carlson is a past president for the OEDA. She's thrilled the association has another option for families searching for help.
"There needs to be more because the demand is so high, and the people who can actually treat eating disorders is low," she said.
Which is why National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, which runs February 23 - March 1, is so important. The attention it brings helps make people aware of the struggles that are out there, and that there are options here in Oklahoma.
"I think it's going to be a tremendous service to the adolescents here and it's of course really exciting for me to be able to participate in that," said Dr. Middleman.
To see more stories about eating disorders in Oklahoma click here.