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10 Things To Know About Eating Disorders

1. Eating disorders are complex, serious, biologically-based psychological illnesses defined by “severe disturbances in one’s eating behaviors”, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Though many people feel concerned about their weight, food intake, or appearance, or at times eat emotionally or feel a lack of control around food, eating disorders occur when individuals become fixated on controlling these aspects of their lives or experience disruption in their daily lives as a result of their behaviors around food.

2. Eating disorders are not choices and can have lasting physical and mental health ramifications, such as cardiovascular and gastrointestinal problems, depression, infertility, lethargy, and social isolation.

3. Eating disorders can be life-threatening: approximately 10,200 people die each year from an eating disorder, or one person every 52 minutes, and about 26% of individuals with eating disorders attempt suicide, ANAD, the National Association for Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, reports online.

4. Though many environmental factors play roles in triggering and sustaining eating disorders, approximately 40-60% of one’s vulnerability to develop an eating disorder comes from genetic factors, according to Dr. Cynthia Bulik, director of UNC Chapel Hill’s Center for Excellence for Eating Disorders, who runs the world’s largest genome-wide association study for eating disorders.

5. Research suggests that, typically, eating disorders emerge from a combination of genetic and biological factors, as well as psychological factors such as the presence of co-morbid mental health conditions, environmental factors such as trauma, and social factors such as exposure to eating disorders and diet culture (National Institute of Mental Health)

6. Eating disorders listed in the DSM-V include anorexia nervosa, characterized by food restriction; bulimia nervosa, characterized by episodes of binging and purging; avoidant-restrictive food intake disorder, characterized by extreme anxiety-based aversions to specific foods; binge eating disorder, characterized by episodes of binge eating without purging; and other specified feeding or eating disorder, which includes atypical presentations of the above diagnoses (ANAD).

7. Eating disorders do not discriminate; an individual of any race, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, or body size can struggle with an eating disorder (National Institute of Mental Health), which is why it is important to not assume who is struggling and who is not.

8. Black, Indigenous, and other individuals of color who would meet criteria for eating disorders are half as likely to be diagnosed or receive treatment. Black and Hispanic individuals in particular are far more likely than their white counterparts to exhibit bulimic behavior, yet many still remain undiagnosed and untreated (ANAD). 

9. Transgender college students experience disordered eating at rates approximately four times that of their cisgender peers, and gender dysphoria is often cited as a key factor in eating disorders. Gay and bisexual men are also significantly more likely to engage in eating disorder behaviors than heterosexual men (ANAD).

10. According to ANAD, less than 6% of individuals diagnosed with an eating disorder will present as medically underweight. Atypical anorexia, in particular, occurs more frequently than anorexia nervosa, with a 2.8% lifetime prevalence as opposed to .8% (​​Stice, E., Marti, C. N., & Rohde, P, 2013) and is associated with many of the same risks as anorexia nervosa. Dr. Le Grange reported to the Child Mind Institute that, though research is still ongoing, it appears cases of atypical anorexia are just as likely to require inpatient medical stabilization as cases of regular anorexia nervosa.

Help is Available: Coaching and Concierge Services Through CiR

If you or a loved one are struggling with an eating disorder, Connections in Recovery can provide you with in-person or virtual recovery coaching, connect you to appropriate treatment resources, or put together an outpatient care team for you. Please see the drop-down menu of services on our website to connect with us about any of these options.

To read more about general information regarding eating disorders from the National Institute of Mental Health, click here

To learn more about the genetic component of eating disorders from Dr. Cynthia Bulik and UNC, click here

For eating disorder statistics and more information from the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, click here and to learn about the various types of eating disorders in the DSM, click here

To learn more about atypical anorexia from The Child Mind Institute, click here

To read more about the prevalence, incidence, and impairment of eating disorders from researchers Stice, Marti, and Rohde, click here

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