10 Surprising Facts About Eating Disorders

Next week, we will celebrate National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (NEDAwareness Week). This annual event intends to educate the public about eating disorders and provide hope and support to impacted individuals and their families. With a theme of See the Change, Be the Change, it’s the perfect time to share 10 surprising facts about eating disorders.

The Most Common Eating Disorder: OSFED

1. The most common eating disorder diagnosis is “Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorder” (OSFED). OSFED is a diagnostic category that captures disorders of eating that don’t meet the strict criteria for one of the primary eating disorder categories, like anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder. It’s fortunate that there is a diagnosis that represents the many different ways that disordered eating can present – because we know how varied and diverse all of our experiences can be and that people can be struggling even though their difficulties don’t fit neatly in a box.  

2. Atypical anorexia nervosa is also a very common eating disorder diagnosis. Research shows that the psychological and medical characteristics of atypical anorexia nervosa and anorexia nervosa don’t differ. The only difference is the individual’s starting weight. Those with the diagnosis of atypical anorexia restrict their food intake, fear weight gain, and suffer the effects of weight suppression even though their body mass index (BMI) is considered by typical standards to be in a “healthy” range.

3. 8 out of 10 people with an eating disorder do not seek treatment. That means, 80 percent of people with eating disorders fail to pursue critical professional help. There are various reasons for this astounding statistic, including the stigma associated with eating disorders, limited access to treatment, inadequate resources, and lack of recognition of signs and symptoms.

The Annual Cost of Eating Disorders

4. Eating disorders cost individuals in the United States over 65 billion dollars per year. This number refers to the economic costs alone including treatment expenses and loss of work for both patients and caregivers/supports. 

5. Children can develop eating disorders as young as ages 9 and 10. Previously, it was believed that the typical age of eating disorder development was 13 to 19. In recent years, sadly, this number has significantly shifted lower. 

6. Picky eating in its extreme form may be considered an eating disorder. Also known as avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (AFRID), this condition was only recently recognized as an official eating disorder in the DSM. Of course, it’s common for children to be picky eaters, but in ARFID, the rigidity is severe and interferes with social functioning and/or normal, healthy growth and development. 

More Surprising Facts About Eating Disorders

7. Restrictive diets are one of the strongest risk factors for developing an eating disorder. Diet culture is pervasive in our society. Don’t be fooled by intermittent fasting and other trending eating patterns. Despite the success stories you may hear, research tells us that 95 percent of diets fail. And we know that dieting is the most common gateway to developing an eating disorder. EDs often start with innocent efforts to “get fit” or “slim down.” Unfortunately, many people with eating disorders can trace the onset back to these early efforts that morphed into severe and debilitating conditions.  

8. Disordered eating behaviors are often used to manage uncomfortable emotions. EDs are really not about thinness. Behaviors like restricting, binge eating, and purging serve an emotion regulation function, meaning that, in the short term, people can experience relief, avoidance, or escape from aversive emotion when engaging in these behaviors. For this reason, treatment often focuses on teaching skills for coping that are health-affirming and effective in lieu of using destructive behaviors that worsen quality of life.  

9. 95 percent of individuals with eating disorders also have at least one other psychiatric illness, such as anxiety or depression. This astounding number means that clinicians who treat eating disorders also need to be highly skilled in treating these common comorbidities.

10. Eating disorders are one of the most deadly psychiatric illnesses. In fact, someone dies from an eating disorder every 52 minutes.


If you or a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder, please reach out to our team at info@columbuspark.com to discuss treatment options.