Thursday, December 15, 2016

10 Things About Anorexia Nervosa that Most People Don't Know

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder in which one in 200 American women suffer from. Since the estimated population of women aged 15-64 in 2009 was 103,129,321, this means 515,646 women in that age group would have struggled with anorexia nervosa for that year. The sex ratio of those with anorexia nervosa is 90% female and 10% male. The mean age for the onset of anorexia nervosa is 17. Overall, 8-10 million people struggle with an eating disorder of some type and approximately 3 percent of women have eating disorders (Addiction and Recovery, 2009).

There are many studies and treatments available for those that struggle with anorexia nervosa and other eating disorders. However, if I was the average person (of which I am when it comes to this body of knowledge), there would be 10 startling findings about anorexia nervosa that I wouldn’t hesitate to share with a family member that may be struggling with anorexia nervosa. Here they are:

#1) Without treatment, up to 20% of people with serious eating disorders die.

With treatment, only 2 – 3% of people with anorexia will die. Statistics on anorexia show that mortality rates from anorexia are the highest of any psychological disorder. Anorexia statistics show that 60% make a full recovery, 20% will make a partial recovery, (i.e. able to hold a job and maintain some semblance of relationships but remain very focused on food and weight). They may continue to abuse laxatives or diet pills and remain underweight, while the final 20% stay dangerously underweight.

What does this mean? Treatment overwhelmingly saves lives! The earlier you treat someone with anorexia the better you increase their chances of survival.

#2) Anorexics tend to be perfectionists

Anorexics can be marked by a real need to avoid mistakes and the negative consequences of weight gain that they perceive as a mistake. Perfectionists have a strong need to be in control of everything because the idea is that if they can control their body then everything else in life can become under their control as well, including how others perceive their image and weight. It is a false sense of control and the fallout from these traits is that it leads to intense fear and worry about not living up to societal standards. Their desire to be perfectly in control of their body, but ironically, it results in the opposite–losing control.

Much of research is starting to indicate that perfectionism is an inherited genetic trait. Related to genetic research, another study showed there may be something on chromosome I that lends to anorexia.

#3) History of trauma is behind many that struggle with anorexia.

There is a strong correlation between those experiencing victimization to various childhood emotional traumas and later developing anorexia. For example, estimates of sexual abuse among individuals experiencing eating disorders fall around approximately 30%. When Deborah was on a family vacation at age 11 years, she was sexually assaulted by a group of predators. By the time Deborah was fourteen years old she entered a residential treatment facility for bulimia with anorexic symptoms, along with drug dependency.

What the counselors discovered was that “her binging behavior was a way to metaphorically ‘fill herself up’ emotionally and subsequently push out and occlude some of her feelings of disgust and self-loathing,” according to

Again, if you have a child that you know has been traumatized the immediacy of counseling is a must.

#4) 80-90% of those with anorexia had preexisting struggles with anxiety.

Other personality factors that lend itself to an increased chance of developing anorexia is the existence of chronic anxiety. Research shows that 80-90% of those with anorexia reported struggles with anxiety problems before the onset of anorexia. There is an emotional side to anorexia. People with anorexia tend to have an abnormal amount of fears about things or anxiety going on behind the scenes.

#5) Parents who are highly focused on appearance and frequently diet are more likely to produce children who struggle with anorexia.

In addition to being self-consumed over appearance and losing weight as being key contributing parental factors in producing anorexia in children, levying negative comments about their child’s body image is equally, if not even more destructive to the formation of their child’s approach to food, eating, and dieting. It is never to late to stop one’s own destructive patterns once they see how they have contributed to the demise of another. Reconciling through the seeking of forgiveness from your child and the attempt at transmitting new core values upon personal discovery may lend partial help to the healing process of the one struggling.

#6) Anger is displaced toward the body with anorexia.

People with anorexia may have anger towards certain people but they don’t know how to face it so they in turn take it out on their own body (displacement).

#7) Expect frequent relapses even with treatment

Anorexia and other eating disorders are similar to other addictions in that they are both extremely difficult to bring about 100% victory immediately. In fact, the treating of eating disorders and addictions are similar in that both show a frequent amount of relapses. This is due to the client staying in denial of the problem, minimizing its seriousness, and not willing to fully surrender the problem.

#8) Those with eating disorders and addictions both score high on addictive personality tests.

Should every parent rush to get an MMPI or another personality test early on in their child’s life in order to prevent problems from developing? I would say yes if you are already noticing behavior patterns that are breaching your threshold for tolerance. A person has more to lose by sitting back and doing nothing about early signs of problematic behaviors. Do we not take genetic history tests now to head off problems down the road or to at least enable us to make better informed decisions.

#9) Eating disorders are not classified as addictions in the DSM-IV.

The American Psychiatric Association does not consider anorexia or other eating disorders to be a mental disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel. This surprised me to be honest since eating disorders have the highest rate of mortality among all psychiatric disorders. I figured that since anorexia was deemed a psychiatric disorder that all psychiatric disorders were considered mental disorders.

#10) Those with anorexia or other eating disorders tend to have excessively lower amounts of certain neurotransmitters.

There is evidence that there are possible biological predispositions that influence the tendency for a person to develop anorexia or other eating disorders. For instance, the neurotransmitter serotonin, which manages mood, appetite, sleep, and dreaming tend to be lower in people that develop anorexia.


There is an ample amount of effective treatment centers and counselors out there that can treat anorexia. Here are a few:

1) Remuda Ranch ( 1-800-445-1900.

2) The Center: A Place of Hope ( 1-888-771-5166.

*(most of the information in the top 10 was derived from Dr. Linda Mintle’s lecture from the DVD curriculum “Addiction & Recovery”).


“Addiction & Recovery” (speaker Dr. Linda Mintle). Eating Disorders and Food Addiction, Lesson 302. DVD., 2009

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