Eating Disorders, Part One: Scary Stats and Common Diagnoses

There are many misconceptions about eating disorders. Some are purely misinformed. Others are based on harmful and outdated stereotypes.

For National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, we have two articles lined up. In part one, we will shows some of the most eye-opening statistics about eating disorders and also discuss a few of the commonest eating disorders. In part two, we’ll finish up our list of the commonest eating disorders and deep-dive into how eating disorders are treated.

Some Stats on Eating Disorders

Since there are so many misconceptions about eating disorders—the biggest one being that they only affect teenage girls—statistics can come in handy for dispelling some of these harmful, backwards ideas.

Here are a few of the more eyebrow-raising and scary stats when it comes to the types of people affected by eating disorders, courtesy of the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD). 1

  • Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) are significantly less likely than white people to have even been asked by a doctor about eating disorder symptoms.
  • Black teenagers are 50% more likely than white teenagers to exhibit bulimic behavior, such as binge-eating and purging.
  • Asian American college students report higher levels of body dissatisfaction and negative attitudes toward obesity than their non-Asian, BIPOC peers
  • Gay men are seven times more likely to report binge-eating and twelve times more likely to report purging than heterosexual men
  • Gay and bisexual boys are significantly more likely to fast, vomit, or take laxatives or diet pills to control their weight
  • 20-30% of adults with eating disorders also have autism
  • 3-10% of children and young people with eating disorders also have autism
  • Less than 6% of people with eating disorders are medically diagnosed as “underweight”—which means more than 94% of people with eating disorders may appear as though they don’t have an eating disorder at all

Perhaps scariest and saddest of all is how eating disorders affect children.

  • 42% of 1st – 3rd grade girls want to be thinner
  • 81% of 10 year old children are afraid of being fat
  • 46% of 9-11 year-olds are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets
  • 35-57% of adolescent girls engage in crash dieting, fasting, self-induced vomiting, diet pills, or laxatives.

Types of Eating Disorders

Eating disorders affect several million people at any given time—up to 5% of the population. Most disorders develop in adolescence and young adulthood, and there are quite a few of them. 2

Some are common; others extremely rare. Here’s a look at the most prevalent disorders you may or may not have already heard of:

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia Nervosa is the commonest of eating disorders in the United States. It is defined by a controlled restriction of diet in order to achieve an unhealthy body weight and an intense fear of weight gain.

Anorexia is also often characterized by aspects of body dysmorphic disorder—a preoccupation with perceived physical flaws that others cannot see and a generalized, powerful distaste in one’s appearance.

Warning Signs and Symptoms

  • Dramatic weight loss
  • Preoccupation with weight, food, calories, fat grams, and dieting
  • Denial of the feeling of hunger
  • Excessive, rigid exercise regimen—despite weather, fatigue, illness, or injury
  • Loss of menstrual period for postpuberty females
  • Strong need for control and inflexible thinking

Visit the National Eating Disorders website for a full list of Anorexia Nervosa warning signs and symptoms.

Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)

Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) is most easily described as someone who is an extremely picky eater.

ARFID is described as a lack of interest in eating food, often due to the sensory characteristics of food, such as the shape, texture, and smell—characteristics that have nothing to do with taste or nutritional value, and yet still irrationally restrict a person’s diet.

ARFID is similar to Anorexia Nervosa in many ways but one: those afflicted with ARFID do not exhibit the same body dysmorphic conceptions. This can make ARFID significantly more difficult to perceive and diagnose.

Any parent in the world, ever, will most likely raise an eyebrow at this description. Picky eating is basically a core staple of childhood—it’s the sole reason “Kid’s Menus” exist!

The difference is that children who are picky eaters are often just being difficult, flexing their budding skills of manipulation. Picking eating habits are outgrown. Those afflicted with ARFID do not “naturally outgrow” these behaviors, because they aren’t rooted in reasons such as childhood stubbornness.

Similar to Anorexia in most ways—strict and unhealthy limitations on daily food intake and/or types of food consumed—

Warning Signs and Symptoms

  • Dramatic weight loss
  • Dramatic restriction in types or amount of food eaten
  • Will only eat certain textures of food
  • Fears of choking or vomiting
  • Limited range of preferred foods that becomes narrower over time (i.e., picky eating that progressively worsens).
  • No body image disturbance or fear of weight gain

Visit the National Eating Disorders website for a full list of ARFID warning signs and symptoms.

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia is the uncontrollable consumption of abnormally large amounts of food (bingeing), followed by compensatory behaviors such as vomiting (purging).

Many people are under the impression that purging only means self-induced vomiting. This is not the case. Other compensatory behaviors include:

  • Misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or other medications that impact the digestion and/or processing of food
  • Fasting
  • Excessive exercise

Warning Signs and Symptoms

  • Disappearance of large amounts of food in short periods of time
  • Evidentiary signs of purging behaviors, such as the smell of stomach acid or the presence of wrappers or packages of laxatives or diuretics
  • Appears uncomfortable eating around others and often visits the bathroom immediately after eating
  • Steals or hoards food in strange places
  • Drinks excessive amounts of water or non-caloric beverages
  • Uses excessive amounts of mouthwash, mints, and gum
  • Shows unusual swelling of the cheeks or jaw area
  • Bloated appearance due to fluid retention

Visit the National Eating Disorders website for a full list of Bulimia Nervosa warning signs and symptoms.

Binge-Eating Disorder

Similar to Bulimia, except without the unhealthy purge, binge-eating disorder can be an extremely dangerous and life-threatening behavior. Overeating, absent any purging, can lead to serious health complications, including obesity, diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular diseases. 3

Those with binge-eating disorder are often overcome with a sense of lost control; they cannot stop themselves from consuming food, even if they’re eating too rapidly, feeling uncomfortably full, not feeling hungry at all, and feeling disgusted with themselves afterward.

Warning Signs and Symptoms

  • Appears uncomfortable by or is fearful of eating around others
  • Steals or hoards food in strange places
  • Creates lifestyle schedules or rituals to make time for binge sessions
  • Withdraws from usual friends and activities
  • Disruption in normal eating behaviors, such as:
    • eating throughout the day with no planned mealtimes
    • skipping meals or taking small portions of food at regular meals fasting or repetitive dieting
  • Eating alone out of embarrassment at the quantity of food being eaten

Visit the National Eating Disorders website for a full list of Binge-Eating Disorder warning signs and symptoms.

Stay tuned for next week where we’ll talk more about the types of eating disorders and also how they are treated.

  • Karl Wilson
    Posted at 13:18h, 08 March

    Thank tou

  • Karl Wilson
    Posted at 13:17h, 08 March

    Ok thank you

  • Grace+Ramos
    Posted at 19:50h, 06 March

    Good read!

  • Bonnie Schick
    Posted at 22:07h, 05 March


  • Bryan C Chavolla
    Posted at 16:14h, 05 March

    very good info

  • Estrellita+Goyena
    Posted at 23:26h, 04 March

    Thank you

  • Rachel sandbulte
    Posted at 21:42h, 04 March

    Great information

  • Michele Vasquez
    Posted at 12:56h, 04 March

    Thanks this was informative

  • Laronda K Melton
    Posted at 10:22h, 04 March


  • Tosha Y Harper
    Posted at 08:20h, 04 March


  • Cathy+Owens
    Posted at 17:38h, 03 March


  • Cathy+Owens
    Posted at 17:37h, 03 March

    Thanks for info

  • Tamela Eilts
    Posted at 17:27h, 03 March


  • Ryan Nordstrom
    Posted at 14:44h, 03 March


  • Kelsy Kauk-Cofield
    Posted at 10:52h, 03 March


  • Renee Frey
    Posted at 08:46h, 03 March

    Thank you

  • Tamara Owens
    Posted at 23:53h, 02 March

    Thank you

  • Christine Newton
    Posted at 18:44h, 02 March


  • Michelle Trollard
    Posted at 16:36h, 02 March


  • Ramona Robertson
    Posted at 16:34h, 02 March

    Thank you.

  • Javier Cruz
    Posted at 14:57h, 02 March

    All those are very important advices.

  • J Pierce
    Posted at 11:26h, 02 March


  • Debra+Williams
    Posted at 10:35h, 02 March

    So much great info

    Posted at 08:48h, 02 March

    Thanks for the information

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