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How Many Women Suffer From An Eating Disorder

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Worried You May Have An Eating Disorder

Why are so many women who suffer from eating disorders overlooked? | GMA

Take one of our 3-minute mental health quizzes to see if you could benefit from further diagnosis and treatment.

While there are many factors associated with eating disorders, there is no specific known cause. Personal experiences such as sexual abuse and bullying are often associated with eating disorders. At the same time, experts have yet to figure out why some people develop eating disorders under these circumstances but others in similar situations do not.

A perfect storm of several factors come together to cause an eating disorder, Jennifer says. That includes past trauma, personal history, temperament, and genetics.

How Can Dual Diagnosis Treatment Help Women With Eating Disorders And Substance Abuse Problems

Its very important to get help for your co-occurring disorder. This is often referred to as dual diagnosis treatment. This type of care ensures that both conditions are being treated, and neither is being ignored.

The goal of any good addiction rehab is to address the underlying cause of the addiction. In your case, it would be your eating disorder. If you dont address the cause, both the addiction and the disordered eating patterns will continue. Research has demonstrated that to be a fact.

In order to properly treat your addiction and eating disorder, it must be determined what caused it. Maybe you suffer from anxiety, or perhaps you have a history of PTSD. Regardless of what it is, your therapists job will be to understand it. Once they do, they can begin the process of treating you the right way. In doing so, your addictive behaviors will also be addressed. Youll learn better coping skills and youll also learn how to avoid relapsing.

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Pregnancy And Body Image

Pregnancy is a time of tumultuous body changes that can be hard for any woman and exceptionally stressful for those with eating disorders. Even when symptoms of eating disorders decrease during pregnancy, concerns about shape and weight are likely to remain high.

One of the most significant physical changes during pregnancy is weight gain, something feared by many people with eating disorders. Some women struggle to tolerate pregnancy-related weight gain and body changes. Anecdotally, many women report that their pregnancies seemed to invite increased comments from other people about their bodiesthis can be difficult.

Yet others report feeling liberated from weight concerns during pregnancy. Some women with eating disorders appreciate pregnancy as a new context to view their body and its capabilities.

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Three Out Of Four American Women Have Disordered Eating Survey Suggests

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Sixty-five percent of American women between the ages of 25 and 45 report having disordered eating behaviors, according to the results of an online survey. An additional 10 percent of women report symptoms consistent with eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder, meaning that a total of 75 percent of American women surveyed endorse some unhealthy thoughts, feelings or behaviors related to food or their bodies.

Sixty-five percent of American women between the ages of 25 and 45 report having disordered eating behaviors, according to the results of a new survey by Self Magazine in partnership with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

An additional 10 percent of women report symptoms consistent with eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder, meaning that a total of 75 percent of American women surveyed endorse some unhealthy thoughts, feelings or behaviors related to food or their bodies.

Although the type of disordered eating behaviors the survey uncovered dont necessarily have potentially lethal consequences like anorexia or bulimia nervosa, women report they are associated with emotional and physical distress. And despite the stereotype that eating issues affect mostly young women, the survey found that those in their 30s and 40s report disordered eating at virtually the same rates. Findings show that:

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Eating Disorders And Economic Impact

The Problem
  • In 2012, the total social and economic cost of eating disorders in Australia was estimated at $69.7 billion . Direct financial costs total $17.1 million and the burden of disease costs are $52.6 million .
  • Eating disorders are one of the 12 leading causes of hospitalisation costs due to mental health issues in Australia .
  • Eating disorders are among the leading causes of burden of disease and injury in young females in Australia .
  • The in-patient expense, in the private hospital sector, of treating a single episode of Anorexia Nervosa has been reported to be the second most costly condition . .

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Irish Research: Children And Adolescents

Eating Disorders

  • A 2012 study of Irish adolescents found that disordered eating was more prevalent among girls than boys. Regarding pubertal status, greater maturity in girls was associated with increased eating concerns, a higher drive for thinness and higher levels of body dissatisfaction. For boys, greater maturity was associated with lower body dissatisfaction and lower scores in the drive for thinness. Early maturing girls and late maturing boys show elevated levels of disordered eating. McNicholas et al. .
  • According to a 2007 study of Irish children and adolescents, 1.2% of Irish girls may be at risk of developing anorexia nervosa, with 2% at risk of developing bulimia nervosa. Source: McNicholas, F. Eating Problems in Children and Adolescents.

Body Image

Findings of Health Behaviour in School-aged Children in Ireland from 1998-2018, published March 2021

  • Between 2002 and 2018, there was a statistically significant increase in the proportion of children who reported being on a diet or doing something else to lose weight . This includes an increase amongst boys, particularly boys 15-17.


  • 71.4% of Irish adolescents feel adversely affected by media portrayal of body weight and shape, with more than a quarter believing it to be far too thin. McNicholas et al. .

Mental Health

Irish Statistics: Hse Model Of Care For Eating Disorders

  • Based on epidemiological projections, an estimated 188,895 people in Ireland will experience an eating disorder at some point in their lives.
  • It is estimated that approximately 1,757 new cases occur in Ireland each year in the 10-49 age group.

2020 Model of Care Treatment Figures

  • 228 referrals and 4 in 5 reached referral criteria and 1 in 4 referrals were urgent
  • 84% of referrals were within 4 weeks
  • 150 assessments
  • 130 had an eating disorder, with 18% also experiencing self-harm or suicidal ideation and 15% had an additional medical condition
  • 138 started treatment
Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder11

2019 Model of Care Treatment Figures

  • 203 referrals
  • 136 had an eating disorder
  • 110 started treatment
Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder5

Information published by the Health Research Board in July 2021.

Key points compared to 2019:

  • 32% rise in adult admissions
  • 20-24 year olds most affected, but overall 18-44 year olds significantly represented
  • 13% of adult admissions were males
  • 61% increase in admissions for children & adolescents .
  • Overall, eating disorders represented 18% of admissions for under 18s.


Gender and all and first admissions. Primary admission diagnosis and gender. Ireland 2020.


Discharges and in-patient days by diagnosis for all lengths of stay. Ireland 2020. Numbers with percentages


Hospital type all admissions. Primary admissions diagnosis


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Accepting Help And Handling The Stigma Of Eating Disorders

As if its not enough to cope with both the psychological and physical symptoms, there is often a social stigma towards people with eating disorders that is greater than for other common mental health issues, like depression. If you have an eating disorder, you may sense that others see you as weaker, responsible for your disorder or as someone who is using your disorder to get attention.

On the flip side, other women may express feelings of admiration or envy, particularly in the case of anorexia, seeing the condition as having some benefit in a society that values thin body types. All of this can interfere with your motivation to get help for a condition that should not be considered desirable and is not your fault. 4,5

Recognizing your own disordered eating patterns is a good first step toward getting and accepting help. Now its time to trust a friend, family member, therapist, or doctor who can provide a safe, supportive environment in which you can open up about your feelings and ask for help.

When your brain has been hijacked by an eating disorder, you need other people to help you move forward in your recovery, Jennifer advises. Remember that your supporters may not be familiar with all the ways an eating disorder has affected you, and may not know exactly what to do to help, so its important to share as much information as you can.

Prevalence Of Eating Disorders

Older Australians are also suffering from eating disorders | 7.30

Approximately 30 million Americans struggle with eating disorders. At least one person dies from an eating disorder every 62 minutes in America. Eating disorders can affect anyone regardless of gender, age, ethnicity or culture. There are many different types of eating disorders. Some of the most common in America are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the lifetime prevalence rates of eating disorders in Americans ages 18 and older include:

  • Binge eating disorder: 2.8 percent of American adults.
  • Bulimia nervosa: 1 percent of American adults.
  • Anorexia nervosa: 0.6 percent of American adults.

Except for anorexia being disproportionately high among non-Hispanic Caucasians, the prevalence of eating disorders across the United States is similar among the Hispanic, non-Hispanic Caucasian, African-American and Asian populations. Regardless of demographic, the high rate of eating disorders in America means that reliable, effective treatment options are necessary.

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How Dangerous Are Eating Disorders

  • Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. A study by the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders reported the following eating disorder statistics:
  • 5-10% of anorexics die within 10 years after contracting the disease and 18-20% of anorexics will be dead after 20 years.
  • Anorexia nervosa has the highest death rate of any psychiatric illness .
  • The mortality rate associated with anorexia nervosa is 12 times higher than the death rate of ALL causes of death for females 15-24 years old.
  • Without treatment, up to 20% of people with serious eating disorders die. With treatment, the mortality rate falls to 2-3%.

Eating Disorders And Gender

  • 63% of people with eating disorders in Australia are female and 37% male .
  • Women and girls are more likely to experience all types of eating disorders than men and boys, with the exception of Binge Eating Disorder where there is almost equal prevalence .
  • Approximately 80-85% of individuals diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa or Bulimia Nervosa are female and 15-20% of people with Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa are male .
  • The gender distribution for Binge Eating Disorder is roughly equal for males and females .
  • 15% of all women will experience an eating disorder in their lifetime .
  • Eating disorders are the third most common chronic illness in young women .
  • Eating disorders and disordered eating behaviours in boys and men may present differently than in girls and women, particularly with muscularity-oriented disordered eating .
  • Research suggests that transgender people, whose assigned sex at birth does not match their gender identity, are more likely than cisgender people, whose assigned sex at birth matches their gender identity, to have been diagnosed with an eating disorder or to engage in disordered eating .
  • Research indicates that both transfeminine spectrum and transmasculine spectrum individuals had higher levels of disordered eating and body dissatisfaction than cisgender participants .
  • An Australian study found that 23% of transgender young people have a current or previous diagnosis of an eating disorder .

Did you know?

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How Eating Disorders Became A White Women Problem

Radical thinness was so de rigueur that a 1993People cover story dubbed it the waif wave. Kate Moss was the movements poster child, but others repping the fad included casts of hit series like Friends and Ally McBeal, who seemed to be battling one another for peak slimness.

Despite the popularity of the skin-and-bones look, when celebrities admitted to eating disorders, they were censured. When beloved Princess Diana spoke about her bulimia, she received little sympathy from her family. Her husbands response was to gesture toward her plate and ask, Is that going to reappear later? Critics called pop star Fiona Apple Kate Moss with songs, emaciated and too thin, even though she admitted to starving herself to cope with the trauma of being raped.

That women suffering from eating disorders were insulted is no surprise. But the waif wave coincided with a new social awareness of the connection between extreme thinness and a diagnosis an eating disorder. Before, skinniness was a marker of a svelte womans ability to control her body better than her peers. Now it was a symptom of a sickness.

Women of color were practically absent from these representations. They were assumed to not suffer from eating disorders because they reportedly had better body attitudes than their white peers. That same study revealed that 70 percent of black girls were satisfied with their bodies, but coverage of it downplayed the statistic that more than half of them dieted.

Statistics On Eating Disorder Recovery

Why are Eating Disorders More Common in Females? Your ...

Because research on the progression of eating disorders is developing, limited, and sometimes unreliable, data exists on eating disorder recovery statistics. Further research is needed to assess recovery from eating disorders. However, one point is clear: eating disorders are treatable and recovery is possible.

Currently available statistics on long-term recovery from eating disorders include:

  • Approximately one in 10 Americans who have eating disorders get treatment
  • Sixty percent of people who struggle with eating disorders recover through treatment
  • About 80 percent of women who enroll in treatment for eating disorders do not receive sufficient care to help them recover
  • Approximately 20 percent of people who have eating disorders and enroll in treatment make partial recoveries

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Global Impact Of Westernization Of Culture

The first culture to be studied, with an increased prevalence of eating disorders, was Asia. Immigrants began coming to Western countries, and studies were conducted on the immigrants and descendants prior to the 1990s. There were a handful of reported cases of eating disorders during this time and was rare.

In Japan however in the 1970s eating disorders becoming more prevalent, and by the end of the 20th century disordered eating attitudes and behaviors significantly increased among Asian youth . Eating disorders in Asia suggest that eating disorders are not culture-bound or specific, but more culture-reactive.

This is based on Westernization of fashion, beauty ideas, television, social media as well as industrialization and urbanization of Asia .

The study of the significant and rapid increase of eating disorders in Asia takes into consideration the coinciding of westernization, cultural shifts, industrialization, and urbanization. This includes shifts in population demographics, food supply, global economies, gender role shifts, and the traditional family structure changes .

Crisis Care At Priory

Priorys customer service team is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to ensure that those in crisis can be signposted to the best possible support, as quickly as possible. The specialist teams at our residential facilities can help to stabilise those in need of immediate assistance for their eating disorder or other mental health concerns.

Get in Touch Today

For details of how Priory can provide you with assistance regarding eating disorders, please call 0800 840 3219 or . For professionals looking to make a referral, please click here

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What To Expect From Psychotherapy

Since different types of people may respond better to different types of therapy, there is no one type that is most effective for treating eating disorders. The following therapies are most commonly used:

  • Cognitive behavior therapy is a form of short-term therapy that focuses on distorted thinking patterns and emotions that drive disordered eating behavior.
  • Acceptance and Commitment therapy focuses more on changing behaviors than on changing thinking and feeling patterns.
  • Cognitive remediation therapy focuses on perfectionism and other rigid thinking patterns to improve treatment of adults with anorexia.
  • Dialectical behavior therapy focuses on changing behaviors by developing new habits through mindfulness, coping skills, and emotional regulation.

Additionally, family-based treatment has been used effectively to promote healthy eating and restore normal weight in adolescents with anorexia or bulimia. FBT is a home-based program that involves all family members.

Interpersonal psychotherapy has been shown to help those with bulimia and binge eating disorder by focusing generally on improving interpersonal relationship issues and communication. Healthier interpersonal relationships and functioning within those relationships has been found to reduce symptoms of these eating disorders.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you need help, and you cannot get it from someone in your immediate support circle, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline toll-free at 1-800-931-2237.

Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder

Adult eating disorders
  • Lack of interest or other avoidance of food due to the sensory characteristics of food, such as colors and textures. Avoidance is associated with at least one of the following:
  • Significant weight loss or, in children, failure to reach expected weight and height
  • Significant nutrient deficiency
  • Dependence on nutritional supplements or oral feeding tube
  • Disruption of psycho-social functioning
    • The condition cannot be explained away by the unavailability of foods or culturally approved eating practices.
    • There are no issues with body weight or body image and avoidance is not associated with anorexia or bulimia.
    • There is no other eating disturbance or medical condition present that would explain the avoidance, or the avoidance is more extreme than would normally be associated with another condition.

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