Eating Disorders: Statistics, Types and Treating


Eating disorders refer to all those conditions that seriously affect the eating of meals. These disorders can be manifested in the form of a loss of appetite or having an extraordinary good appetite. Eating disorders are often prevalent but not limited to any age group. These conditions are often due to physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual stress. The prevailing statistics on eating disorders are not sufficiently available. Eating disorders are medical illnesses that require medical attention. The conditions are treatable. They often co-exist with other illnesses/conditions including drug addiction, depression, or anxiety (Meghan 1).

Eating Disorder Statistics

From statistics, it is evident that people are becoming increasingly sensitive towards their body images. This has led to a huge portion of them engaging in serious dieting. For example in Canada, it has been shown that at any particular time “70% of women and 35% of men are dieting” (Canadian Mental Health Association 1); as at 1993, it was shown that “in women between the ages of 15 and 25, 1-2% have anorexia and 3-5% have bulimia” (Canadian Mental Health Association 1). A study carried out by Jones et al. indicated that 27% of Canadian girls aged 12-18 years displayed eating disorder attitudes and this was noted to persist to high levels in the course of their teenage years (Jones et al. 1). In a different study, it was shown that among the Canadian seniors, eating disorders were equally increasing. The study indicated that anorexia was predominantly common among women specifically the supermodels and young girls who felt insecure (Baetge 1). The study raised an alarm on health providers as it was indicated that in most cases they were not aware of the eating disorders among the Canadian seniors a fact that is said to have led to most of them succumbing to death. It was quoted that “few health professionals think of screening for eating disorders in the elderly” (Baetge 1) and this, therefore, led to “many elderly eating disorder patients have frequently been missed, with tragic consequences” (Baetge 1).

Statistics show that eating disorders affect five to ten million Americans and an approximately seventy million in the world. Out of seventy million individuals, one million are males. Worse still, fifty thousand deaths are due to eating disorders. More so, 11% of high school students in America have been diagnosed with eating disorders. Arguably, fashion models are thinner than 98% of American women. Statistics on eating disorders condition show that Anorexia nervosa (AN) has the highest death rate. A report from American Psychiatric Association (APA) ranks eating disorders as the third most common form of illness among adolescents having an approximated prevalence rate of 5%. Males account for 10% to 35% of the total population suffering from eating disorders. Although available reports predominantly identify adolescents and youths to be affected by eating orders, few incidents prevail for kids as young as six years with eating disorders (ANRED 1). This assignment will focus on critically examining the driving force behind eating disorders in children and seniors to avoid misdiagnosing or costly assumptions.

Types of Eating Disorders

Anorexia Nervosa is a condition where individuals resist maintaining body weight at or above the minimum weight for particular age and height. It is characterized by extreme thinness and unwillingness to maintain a healthy weight, fear of growing fat with a perception of body weight and shape. Other characteristics include thin bones, brittle hair and dry yellowish skin, mild anemia, low blood pressure, brain damage, multi-organ failure, lethargy, sluggishness feeling sickly and being infertile. Those suffering from anorexia nervosa often feel overweight even when they are clearly underweight. They are obsessed with weight control and obsessed losing weight. They repeatedly weigh the food they eat, which is often of small quantities. They may have binge–eating habits or extreme dieting with sometimes self-induced vomiting, misuse of diuretics or enemas. The condition is treatable with an episode, but others still have chronic or long-lasting anorexia nervosa (APA 1).

Bulimia nervosa is a condition characterized by recurrent binge-eating episodes with a lack of control of eating during such episodes. This binge-eating is followed by behavioral activities such as excessive use of laxatives, diuretics, and excessive exercise. Individuals suffering from Bulimia nervosa have normal weight with some being slightly overweight. However, just like anorexia nervosa, the individuals fear gaining weight and are desperate to lose it. Other symptoms may include chronically inflamed sore throat, swollen salivary glands, torn tooth enamel, gastrointestinal disorders, and severe dehydration. They may also experience electrolyte imbalance. There are two types of Bulimia nervosa: purging and non-purging (APA 1).

Binge eating disorder is a condition where individuals lose control over their eating behavior. Binge eating episodes occur in two days, weeks or months. This disorder is not followed by excessive exercise or ways to cut down weight. Consequently, these individuals are often overweight or obese. People with such conditions are at a higher risk of having cardiovascular complications and high blood pressure (APA 1).

Awareness is being advocated for especially on the consequences of pediatric obesity. Other maladaptive eating disorders, including night eating syndrome (NES) and sleep-related disorders (SRED); are also receiving significant medical attention. There are also issues of misdiagnosing especially when it comes to males. This is because pathologically affected males rarely show the thin or frail characteristics associated with eating disorders (ANRED 1).

Eating Disorders in Children and Adults

Research done gave an estimate of 17% -65% malnutrition prevalence rates among the elderly people. Eating disorders are also prevalent in seniors. Some of the reasons attributed to poor eating habits in seniors include undiscovered infections, which may affect a senior’s appetite. Seniors often suffer ailments related to aging such as osteoporosis. The medications given for such age-related ailments can cause loss of appetite, or may cause stomach upset and pain, discouraging eating. Other problems in elderly are issues to do with their dentations. Missing and decaying teeth may cause eating habits. More so, poorly fitted dentures may cause sensitivity and can result in pain, hence poor appetite. Another common factor is memory lapses. They tend to have difficulty in recalling whether one ate or not. Other issues include lack of energy to go shopping, lower income, reduced mobility, or depression. Most of the seniors have psychological issues such as worrying about their death, losing connections with friends and so on. Such psychological issues are related to eating habits. Eating disorders in the elderly show anorexia nervosa, especially their attitudes towards eating and alexithymia (Clarke, Wahlqvist, Rassias and Strauss 347).

Statistics show that about 25-30% of children are affected by eating disorders. Pediatricians’ records show that 5-10% of the eating disturbances require medical attention. Eating behavior affects a child’s physical and emotional development. These problems may include under-eating or overeating compared to psychological needs. The behaviors displayed by the young ones can include gagging on the sight of certain foods, or excessive fussiness. According to Elizabeth, feeding becomes a problem when the relationship between the caregiver and the child goes wrong. A mother’s response to the kid upon rejection or accepting the offer creates a rapport that the child predominately associates to the feeding over time. Different studies have suggested that 16-30% of the children feeding problems are organic while up to 80% are behavioral. A survey done on 700 children below ten years showed that 86% of the children had underlying medical disorders, 61% had issues with oropharyngeal dysfunction and 18% with a behavioral problem. Pediatricians classify feeding disorders in children as food avoidance emotional disorder (FAED); FAED is often characterized by the refusal of food without changes in weights. Others are dysphagia, due to difficulties when swallowing or due to fear of choking. Others include pervasive refusal syndrome and selective feeding patterns (Sacrato et al. 1).

Treating Eating Disorders

Adequate nutrition and guidance are the foundations of treatment. There are specific forms of therapy for every type of disorder. The treatment comprises individual, group and family psychotherapy, medical care and monitoring, nutritional counseling, and medications (ADA 1).

Anorexia nervosa treatment includes restoring the individual’s healthy weight, treating the psychological issues that could be related to the eating disorder. More so, the behaviors associated with insufficient eating disorders. Research has indicated effective results from antidepressants, antipsychotics and mood stabilizer therapy. The therapy is said to treat the mood swings and resolve anxieties. However, it is not evident whether antidepressants would circumvent the condition from reoccurring (ADA 1).

Research has shown that combined medical attention and supportive psychotherapy are very effective for anorexia patients than psychotherapy alone. However, the effectiveness of the treatment depends on various factors, including the commitment of the patient and the degree of the patient’s condition. However, so far there is no specific psychotherapy treatment for anorexia identified as yet (ADA 1).

Just like anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa is often effectively treated with combined nutritional counseling and psychotherapy, especially cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). One depressant approved for treating bulimia nervosa is Fluoxetine; it may be effective for patients undergoing depression or anxiety. It is known to reduce binge eating and purging behaviors. Binge eating disorder treatment is similar to those of bulimia nervosa (ADA 1).


Eating disorders result from complex interactions of biological, genetic, and psychological factors. The driving forces for eating disorders in children and seniors should be critically examined to avoid misdiagnosing or costly assumptions. More studies and research are required to improve feeding disorders. New technology such as study of genes, neuroimaging studies are required to provide valuable information concerning eating disorders. Other studies being done are in psychotherapy interventions. A study done on adolescents indicated a high level of bulimia nervosa victims recovered effectively with Maudsley’s model of family treatment. All these studies in genetics and brain functions are amiably directed towards identifying and understanding risk factors and aid in the improvement of treating children and seniors’ feeding disorders.

Works Cited

ADA. “Position of the American Dietetic Association: nutrition intervention in the treatment of anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and eating disorders not otherwise specified.” Journal of the American Diatec Association 101.7 (2001): 810-819. Print.

ANRED. “Statistics: how many people have eating disorders?” Anorexia Nervosa and related eating disorders, Inc, 2004. Web.

APA. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, fourth edition, text revision (DSM-IV-TR). Washington. DC: Prentice Hall, 2000. Print.

Baetge, Stepehen. “News: eating disorder numbers rising among seniors.” Pale Reflections, 2011. Web.

Canadian Mental Health Association. “Eating Disorders.” Canadian Mental Health Association, 2011. Web.

Clarke, David, Wahiqvist Mark, Rassias Con, and Strauss Boyd. Psychological factors in nutritional disorders of the elderly: Part of the spectrum of eating disorders. Melbourne, Australia: Monash Medical Centre, 1998. Print.

Jones et al. “Disordered eating attitudes and behaviors in teenage girls: a school based study.” Canadian Medical Association Journal 165.5 (2001): 1. Print.

Meghan, Peebles. “Eating disorders.” PCH 201 Wellness, 2003. Web.

Sacrato et al. “Eating Disorders.” Italian Journal of Pediatrics 36:49 (2010): 1. Print.

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