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Eating disorder facts

Facts About Eating Disorders

We deeply understand that knowledge is a cornerstone of the journey towards recovery from an eating disorder. With this understanding, we’ve gathered facts about eating disorders, along with the latest statistics and insights. This carefully curated resource is designed to shed light on the nuances of eating disorders, offering clarity and support to those navigating this challenging path.

Here, you’ll find a comprehensive exploration of eating disorder facts and the hopeful pathways to recovery. Our guide is more than just a collection of information. It’s a source of empowerment and enlightenment, crafted with the compassion and individualized care for which The Emily Program is known.

This eating disorder facts guide has been designed to help you discover understanding, solace, and the tools necessary for recovery. At The Emily Program, we believe in the transformative power of informed awareness and the strength of embracing the journey with knowledge and hope by your side.

Eating disorders do not discriminate

Eating disorders affect every gender, class, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. People from children 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 (BED), combined with Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) and Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorders (OSFED) are actually more prevalent than anorexia or bulimia.

Eating disorders are prevalent

Eating disorder statistics show that there are more struggling than you may realize. In the U.S. alone, more than 30 million people will struggle with an eating disorder.

Among adolescents, eating disorders are the third most common chronic illness. 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

Eating disorder statistics show that people with eating disorders are also struggling with other issues, including substance use disorder (SUD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), sexual abuse history, depression, anxiety disorder, and other health issues.

Eating disorders are not a choice

Eating disorders aren’t a choice, behavior problem, or lack of willpower. An eating disorder is an illness with biological and genetic roots that are influenced by culture.

People with eating disorders may soothe their discomfort, stress, uncertainty, pain, sadness, or desires with food until their 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.

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

In the U.S., someone dies every 52 minutes as a direct result of an eating disorder.

Anorexia nervosa has one of the highest mortality rate of any other psychiatric disorder, second only to opioid use disorder. For females between 15 and 24 who suffer from anorexia, the mortality rate is 12 times higher than 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 Type II diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and other illnesses.

Eating disorders affect people of all genders

There is a stereotype that only women experience eating disorders. In reality, eating disorders affect people of all genders, including men, transgender people, and non-binary people. Approximately 10 percent of people with eating disorders are male, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Some males with an eating disorder want to lose weight, while others want to gain weight or “bulk up,” raising the risk for steroid or substance use to increase muscle mass.

Gender-expansive individuals—which describes a variety of gender identities that do not fit within the constraints of cisgender (an individual whose assigned sex at birth matches their gender identity) or binary gender identities (woman or man)—can have a higher chance of forming disordered eating habits or an eating disorder for a variety of reasons, including discrimination, stigma, and prejudice. There are specific difficulties that each group within the gender-expansive umbrella face. For example, transgender people may feel pressure from society to fulfill the unrealistic body ideals of their specific gender identity.

Eating Disorders Can Have a Larger Impact

Eating disorder statistics reveal a troubling reality, with these conditions impacting millions globally across all demographics, challenging the misconception that they are merely a choice or phase. The prevalence of “Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorder” (OSFED) underscores the diversity and complexity of eating disorders, which often elude traditional diagnostic categories like anorexia or bulimia. 

In the U.S. alone, eating disorder statistics indicate that around 30 million individuals will encounter an eating disorder at some point in their lives. Alarmingly, 80% of those affected may never seek the treatment they need due to stigma, limited access, or unawareness of the severity of their condition. The economic impact is staggering, with the cost of eating disorders in the U.S. exceeding $65 billion annually, reflecting both direct treatment expenses and broader societal impacts such as lost productivity. 

With the highest mortality rate among mental health conditions, these statistics underscore the critical need for accessible treatment and the importance of dismantling barriers to care.

Recovery From Eating Disorders is Possible

The Emily Program recognizes the unique nature of each person’s journey through eating disorder recovery, offering tailored treatment options to meet diverse needs:

Residential Care

Day Programs

Outpatient Services

Virtual Care

Our approach ensures anyone facing an eating disorder receives the necessary support, guidance, and care, regardless of their recovery stage or situation.

We advise starting with our self-assessment quiz to gauge the need for professional help. Our team is committed to offering the support, care, and expertise needed for recovery.

If you’re considering taking the first step towards healing from an eating disorder, contact us at 1-888-364-5977 for an assessment. At The Emily Program, our mission is to provide exceptional care and help individuals reclaim their lives from eating disorders.

For more information about eating disorders and our services, please contact us. We’re here to help.

Get help. Find hope.