National Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2018: Stats and Guidance

National Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2018 is a time when families and professionals alike come together to inform their communities, share stories and support one another. This week is internationally recognized and dedicated to fighting the various myths, stigmas and misunderstandings that surround disorders like anorexia, binge eating disorder, bulimia and other eating disorders that might not fall into particular diagnostic categories (but can be devastating, nonetheless).  For many families, this time of collaboration, sharing and education brings a communal sigh of relief, as individuals often report feeling isolated in their unique struggles and daily battles. As this week (February 26th- March 4th) is a time to reflect and evaluate our current approaches, let’s first review some of the 2017-2018 eating disorder statistics. Note: while statistics on the prevalence rates, mortality rates and treatment rates for eating disorders are hard to come by, a number of valuable resources have analyzed data from around the world to provide these trusted statistics.


Prevalence Among Males & Females

-Between the ages of 13 and 18, the National Institute of Mental Health has documented that 5.4% of children will struggle with an eating disorder. This works out to be roughly 2.2 million adolescents. For anorexia specifically, it is estimated that 1.0 to 4.2% of women have suffered from anorexia in their lifetime. [2]

-Data from around the world has demonstrated that .3% of men will suffer from anorexia [4]

-Behaviors such as binge eating, purging, laxative use & abuse, fasting and so on, are considered ‘subclinical’ eating disordered behaviors. These behaviors are observed equally as commonly among males as they are among females. [4]

-Anorexia is currently ranked as the third most common chronic disease in adolescents, following only type 1 diabetes and asthma

-While over time the incidence of anorexia in middle age groups has remained the same, the incidence of anorexia in age group 15-24 has increased steadily over the last 50 years [4]

Mortality Rates

-Anorexia is known to have the highest fatality rate of any mental illness [3]

-It has been estimated that 4% of anorexic individuals die from complications related to the disease [3]

-While often underrepresented in the media, males represent up to 25% of individuals with anorexia. Those males that are diagnosed with anorexia face a higher likelihood of dying as a result of the disorder, if not engaged in treatment. [4]


While it has been documented that only 1/3 of individuals with anorexia nervosa will access treatments, eating disorder centers such as Columbus Park provide world class, gold-standard interventions to individuals struggling with Anorexia.  If you or a loved one is struggling with anorexia nervosa, do not hesitate to contact us—it is never too early or too late to seek out life changing treatment. [1] Studies have demonstrated that early intervention is directly linked to positive outcomes in anorexia.

Risk Factors & Comorbidities

-About half of anorexia patients have comorbid anxiety disorders, including obsessive-compulsive disorder and social phobia. [5]

-33-50% of anorexia patients have a comorbid mood disorder, such as depression. Mood disorders are more common in the binge/purge subtype than in the restrictive subtype.

-50-80% of the risk for anorexia is genetic

Anorexia Treatment

 If you suspect that you or a loved one may be suffering from anorexia nervosa, you may want to review the three-pronged treatment approach:

Medical (highest priority)- before any clinical intervention may be explored, one must first address any serious health issues that may have resulted from behaviors associated with anorexia. One may experience an unstable heartbeat, amenorrhea, electrolyte imbalances and malnutrition.

Nutritional – Nutritional interventions surround the restoration of weight, development of a meal and eating plan, and psychoeducation about balanced patterns of eating (e.g. foods, times, portions etc.).

Therapy – Once a client has been medically stabilized and has started to work towards re-feeding and weight restoration, structured therapeutic interventions will focus in on the development of effective coping mechanisms.  These skills help the individual better recognize and tolerate emotions so that he/she can better manage the consistent nourishment needed to recover.


  1. Hoek and van Hoeken, 2003. Review of the prevalence and incidence of eating disorders. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 386-396.
  2. The Renfrew Center Foundation for Eating Disorders, Eating Disorders 101 Guide: A Summary of Issues, Statistics and Resources, 2003.
  3. Sullivan, P. (1995). American Journal of Psychiatry, 152 (7), 10731074.
  5. Ulfvebrand, S., Birgegard, A., Norring, C., Hogdahl, L., & von Hausswolff-Juhlin, Y. (2015). Psychiatric comorbidity in women and men with eating disorders results from a large clinical database. Psychiatry Research, 230(2), 294-299.
  6. https://www.eatingdisorderhope.