Fact Sheet: Anorexia Nervosa

Learn the scary statistics and how to identify warning signs of anorexia nervosa with information provided by treatment center Magnolia Creek.

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How to Recognize an Eating Disorder (3:19)

General information about Anorexia Nervosa: 

  • Approximately 90 to 95% of people with anorexia nervosa are female (APA, 1994).
  • Between 0.5 to 1% of American women suffer from anorexia nervosa.
  • Anorexia nervosa is one of the most common psychiatric diagnoses in young women (Hus, 1996).
  • Between 5 and 20% of individuals with anorexia nervosa will die; the probability of death increases (within that range) depending on the length of the condition (Zerbe, 1995). 
  • Anorexia nervosa has one of the highest mortality rates of any mental health condition (Arcelus, Mitchell, Wales & Nielsen, 2011). 
  • For females between the ages of 15 and 24 old who suffer from anorexia nervosa, the mortality rate associated with the illness is 12 times higher than the death rate of all other causes of death (Sullivan, 1995).  
  • Anorexia nervosa typically presents in early to mid-adolescence; anorexia nervosa ranks as the third most common chronic illness among female adolescents.
  • The average Body Mass Index (BMI) of Miss America winners has decreased from about 22 (in the 1920s) to 16.9 (in the 2000s) (Martin, 2010).  
  • Only 5% of American women have the body type that is most typically portrayed in the media.

How to help a loved one if you believe he or she is suffering from anorexia nervosa:

  • Educate yourself about eating disorders and treatment options.
  • Model healthy relationships with food, body, and exercise.
  • Suggest professional help in a gentle way; present as a calm, united front or family system.
  • Search for a treatment providers who specialize in eating disorder treatment (often, people with eating disorders receive unspecialized care in places like psychiatric units).  
  • Find a complete team of providers including (at minimum): a therapist, dietitian (RD, LD) and physician; don’t attempt to provide help you are unqualified to give. 
  • Expect resistance to treatment and/or denial of the problem from your loved one.
  • Remind your loved one that you want what’s best for him/her. 
  • Present as non-judgmental; ask how you can help. 
  • Contact a professional interventionist or treatment provider who can support your family and assist in getting your loved one to treatment.
  • Don’t threaten your loved one or set boundaries you can’t enforce about going to treatment. 
  • Call 911 or seek medical help immediately if you believe your loved one’s condition is life-threatening.  

If you would like to talk to someone about getting help for an eating disorder, please contact Magnolia Creek at 888-494-4213 or visit Magnolia-Creek.com.

Article written by Magnolia Creek
Authors from the Magnolia Creek treatment center