Eating Disorder Facts
Eating disorders do not discriminate
Eating disorders affect females and males of any background, class, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. People from preteens to seniors may have eating disorders. Their struggles with food disrupt the health and well-being of the individual, as well as that of their families and their communities.
Eating disorders manifest across a wide spectrum of behaviors
Anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are not the only eating disorders. Compulsive overeating and binge eating disorder, combined with the category Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorders (OSFED), are more common than anorexia or bulimia.
Eating disorders are prevalent
Conservative estimates suggest that approximately 3 percent of males and 6 percent of females struggle with an eating disorder. Among adolescents, the prevalence is 14 percent among females and 6.5 percent among males.
Eating disorders are as prevalent or more prevalent than breast cancer, HIV, and schizophrenia. All deserve timely treatment, but eating disorder treatment resources are far less available than those for other serious illnesses.
Eating disorders are often accompanied by other illness
People with eating disorders often have other problems, including chemical dependency, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), sexual abuse history, depression, anxiety disorder, morbid obesity, and other health issues.
Eating disorders have no single origin
Eating disorders are affected by, and in turn, affect biological, psychological, emotional, familial, cultural, spiritual, sexual, gender, and social factors.
Eating disorders are tough to live with
Interacting with a loved one struggling with eating disorder symptoms can be difficult. Family and friends may worry that they won’t “do it right.” Remember, family and friends are important resources for a loved one’s recovery.
Eating disorders are deadly serious
Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any other psychiatric disorder. For females between 15 and 24 who suffer from anorexia, the mortality rate is 12 times higher than the death rate of all other causes of death, according to the National Eating Disorders Association. Anorexia and bulimia can result in heart failure, suicide, early-onset osteoporosis, amenorrhea, kidney failure, pancreatitis, and other serious problems. Binge eating disorder and compulsive overeating can lead to morbid obesity, Type II diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and other illnesses.
Eating disorders affect boys and men
Approximately 10 percent of people with eating disorders are boys and men, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Like females, they have a distorted sense of body image. Some men and boys with an eating disorder want to lose weight, while others want to gain weight or "bulk up," raising the risk for using steroids or other dangerous drugs to increase muscle mass. Males with eating disorders exhibit many of the same emotional, physical, and behavioral signs and symptoms as females. However, since this is seen stereotypically as a “female" disorder, males are less likely to be diagnosed correctly and to seek help.
Eating disorders develop for many reasons
People with eating disorders use disordered eating behaviors to soothe their discomfort, stress, uncertainty, pain, sadness, desire, and (eventually) all feelings. But the disease keeps making things worse, until the person’s health—and maybe their life—is in danger. Many people who are recovered from eating disorders say their illness functioned as a companion—but that the relationship was abusive and destructive. Eating disorder rituals offered an illusory sense of stability, reliability, predictability, and control. But the illness also had characteristics of an abusive relationship, as disordered behaviors and thinking reinforce misconceptions and beliefs—leading the person to feel trapped in unhappiness and serious danger.
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Eating Disorder Quiz
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Disorders We Treat
The Emily Program offers proven and personalized treatment for all types of eating disorders. Regardless of your age or gender, The Emily Program has experience with all kinds of eating disorders. Learn more.
Frequently Asked Questions
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