Eating disorders are serious, treatable process disorders that can affect people of every age, gender, race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. The exact causes of eating disorders are unknown, but research has led to a growing consensus that a range of biological, psychological, and sociocultural factors contribute to the occurrence of an eating disorder.
Common Types of Eating Disorders
Anorexia Nervosa: An eating disorder causing people to obsess about weight and what they eat. Anorexia is characterized by an unwarranted fear of being overweight coupled with a distorted body image. Common symptoms include both starvation or too much exercise in order to maintain a blow-normal body weight.
Binge Eating Disorder: This is a severe, life-threatening eating disorder which is characterized by ongoing episodes of binge eating, or consuming large quantities of food. This is sometimes done very quickly and to the point of discomfort. Those suffering with binge eating disorder often feel out of control and experience guilt, shame, and distress afterward. They do not purge afterward, which frequently leads to large weight gain. This is the most common eating disorder in the United States
Bulimia Nervosa: This is a serious eating disorder involving binge eating followed by purging in order to avoid weight gain. This is a potentially life-threatening eating disorder because it only takes one purge (vomiting) to throw off the electrolytes in the body and cause cardiac arrest.
Some eating disorders may feature orthorexia, which is a preoccupation with obsessive behavior in pursuit of a healthy diet. People who suffer from orthorexia frequently display signs and symptoms of anxiety disorders in conjunction with anorexia or other eating disorders.
Rates of anorexia and bulimia increased in the 80s and 90s, but have remained steady since then. Research in the UK has found an increase in the rates of OSFED (Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder, formerly known as ED-NOS) in recent years. No research has yet been done on how rates of binge eating disorder have changed over time. 
Often times those who are struggling with an eating disorder lack accurate self-awareness and therefore are unable to recognize the problem. It is possible that your loved one may believe that they are totally healthy when in fact they are very ill. Denial is one of the most common traits for those struggling with an eating disorder, as the concept of treatment can be very scary.
Statistics Regarding Eating Disorders
National surveys estimate that 20 million women and 10 million men in America will have an eating disorder at some point in their lives.
- 0.9% of women and 0.3% of men had anorexia during their life
- 1.5% of women and 0.5% of men had bulimia during their life
- 3.5% of women and 2.0% of men had binge eating disorder during their life
A group of researchers followed a group of adolescent girls for eight years, beginning at age 12. They found even higher rates of occurrence:
- 5.2% met criteria for DSM-5 anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder.
- When including nonspecific eating disorder symptoms, a total of 13.2% suffered from a DSM-5 eating disorder by age 20.
What To Look Out For
Girls are far more likely to have eating disorders, though boys are also affected. The following symptoms or behaviors may indicate a child struggling with an eating disorder:
- eating in secret
- preoccupation with food
- calorie counting
- fear of becoming fat
- binge eating
- food phobias or avoidance
Importance of Treatment
Early intervention in the development of an eating disorder has the best likelihood of long-term recovery.  A NIMH-funded study shows that about 3% of adolescents in the United States are affected by an eating disorder. Many do not receive treatment. As many people who suffer from eating disorders are also affected by other disorders, treatment becomes especially important.
Parent involvement in treatment is a crucial factor to the client’s recovery. While parents do not necessarily cause eating disorders, the quality of the parent-child relationship does play a role in the client’s ability to harness a felt sense of security. A healthy parent-child relationship fosters increased self-esteem; enhancing self-care and the ability to better regulate their emotions to reduce self-harming behaviors.
- What Are Eating Disorders? National Eating Disorders Association.
- Eating Disorders. National Institute of Mental Health.
- Eating Disorders Among Children National Institute of Mental Health.
- Teen Eating Disorders Walden Center for Education and Research.
- Most Teens With Eating Disorders Go Without Treatment National Institute of Mental Health
- Eating Disorders In Teens. American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.
- NEDA Parent Tool Kit. National Eating Disorder Association.