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Eating Disorders – Introduction

Anorexia Nervosa

Research suggests that about one percent (1%) of female adolescents have anorexia. That means that about one out of every one hundred young women between ten and twenty are starving themselves, sometimes to death. There do not seem to be reliable figures for younger children and older adults, but such cases, while they do occur, are not common.

Bulimia Nervosa

Research suggests that about four percent (4%), or four out of one hundred, college-aged women have bulimia. About 50% of people who have been anorexic develop bulimia or bulimic patterns. Because people with bulimia are secretive, it is difficult to know how many older people are affected. Bulimia is rare in children.

Males with Eating Disorders

Only about 10% of people with anorexia and bulimia are male. This gender difference may reflect our society’s different expectations for men and women. Men are supposed to be strong and powerful. They feel ashamed of skinny bodies and want to be big and powerful. Women, on the other hand, are supposed to be tiny, waif-like, and thin. They diet to lose weight, making themselves vulnerable to binge eating. Some develop rigid and compulsive overcontrol. Dieting and the resulting hunger are two of the most powerful eating disorders triggers known.

What Age Groups are Affected by Eating Disorders?

Anorexia and bulimia affect primarily people in their teens and twenties, but studies report both disorders in children as young as six and individuals as old as seventy-six.

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