Eating Disorders Fact Sheet

Find out more information on warning signs for eating disorders.

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How to Start Recovering From an Eating Disorder (1:18)

Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness and more than 30 million people suffer from eating disorders in the United States alone. 70% don’t receive treatment due to stigma, misperceptions, lack of education, lack of diagnosis, or lack of access to care. Eating Recovery Center (ERC), the only national healthcare system dedicated to treating eating disorders at any stage of the illness, offers details on the warning signs and other contributing factors below.

What are the characteristics of an eating disorder?

Eating disorders can develop in a variety of forms. The three most common diagnoses are:

  • Anorexia Nervosa – characterized by an obsessive fear of weight gain, a refusal to maintain a healthy body weight, and typically a distorted body image;
  • Bulimia Nervosa – characterized by patterns of bingeing (consuming a large amount of food in a short amount of time) and purging (eliminating calories consumed);
  • Binge Eating Disorder – involves frequent overeating marked by distress and lack of control.

There are, however, other lesser-known forms of eating disorders, such as:

  • Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS) – refers to abnormal eating without all the symptoms required for a diagnosis of anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder;
  • Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) – previously known as selective eating disorder (SED), which when someone limits the consumption of certain foods based on the food's appearance, smell, taste, texture, or a past negative experience with the food;
  • Orthorexia, Drunkorexia, etc. – the rise of certain behaviors that are not yet considered official diagnoses, but can lead to severe health consequences and develop into actual eating disorders. These include orthorexia, or “clean eating” which can become obsessive when the person’s focus becomes a preoccupation on food quality vs. food quantity, drunkorexia, a trend among college students and 20-somethings involving skipping meals, or immediately purging, to avoid consuming added calories, as well as others.

What does someone with an eating disorder look like?

Eating disorders do not discriminate – they can affect anyone no matter their gender, age, race, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status. As many as 25% of people with eating disorders are male, and 13% of women over the age of 50 have eating disorder symptoms. Eating disorders don’t come in one shape or size either. Normal weight or overweight individuals can suffer from an eating disorder, in addition to thin individuals.