Who is Affected by Eating Disorders?

Eating disorders affect all ages, genders and races.

Every parent hopes to avoid adolescent eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder. The reality, though, is that eating disorders affect children of all ages, genders, races, ethnicities and socioeconomic groups. The good news is that they’re treatable.

How Common Are Eating Disorders in Adolescents?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 5.4% of children ages 13 – 18 will suffer from anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder at some point in their lifetime. About half of these children will suffer from a mild-moderate eating disorder, while the other half will suffer from a severe eating disorder. 3.8% of children with a lifetime prevalence of either mild-moderate or severe eating disorders will be female.

People often think of eating disorders as a female-only problem. Sadly, this means that many adolescent boys may be less likely to be properly diagnosed. It may surprise you to know that of children who suffer from a mild-moderate or severe eating disorder, 1.5% of those children will be male.

Regardless of gender, many bodily changes occur during adolescence, and these changes can prove difficult for some. While the exact cause of eating disorders is difficult to pin down, certain factors might put teens at increased risk of developing them.

  • Extracurricular activities: Participation in activities that emphasize leanness, such as modeling, gymnastics or other elite sports.
  • Societal pressure: Popular culture places a great deal of importance on being thin. Even with a normal body weight, adolescents can develop the perception that they’re overweight.
  • Personal factors: Genetics may make some adolescents more likely to develop an eating disorder. In addition, personality traits of perfectionism or anxiety might also play a role.

Eating Disorders Affect Everyone

Who is affected by eating disorders? It’s not limited only to the person with the eating disorder. In fact, parents, siblings, friends, extended family and others, may be affected when their loved one has an eating disorder. Each person involved will be affected in different ways, but some of the most common reactions include:

  • Confusion about why this happened, knowing what to say or not to say, or how to support your child.
  • Grief and anger about not being able to make your child well, change in your child’s behavior, loss of your child’s mental and physical health.
  • Guilt or fear about being responsible for the eating disorder or that your child may not recover.

While you may not be able to solve this problem for your child, you can support them in getting the help that they need.

Adolescent Growth Can Help

Although family support is greatly important in helping your child recover from his or her eating disorder, adolescents suffering with an eating disorder may also need professional help. While there are many types of eating disorder treatments available, only a professional can help guide you and your child toward a treatment plan that can work. At Adolescent Growth, we offer a variety of treatment options personalized to your child’s needs.

Learn more about our treatment services, or call 888.948.9998 to speak with an admissions specialist about your child. Alternatively, you can fill out our online form and we’ll call you back at the time of your choosing.