Frequently Asked Questions

How common are eating disorders?
  • Over 30 million people are affected by eating disorders in the U.S. alone.
  • Over 70 million people world wide are affected.
  • Eating disorders are 5 times more prevalent than Alzheimer’s.
  • Anorexia nervosa has the second highest mortality rate of  all mental illnesses.
  • Binge eating disorder is the most common eating disorder.


Can you tell by looking at someone if they have an eating disorder?
No.  You cannot determine if an individual is struggling with an eating disorder simply by looking at them.  Behaviors and attitudes should be used to determine if someone may be struggling, rather than weight and body size.
Do eating disorders occur within the LGBT community?
Yes. The LGBT community has many unique struggles related to sexuality and gender expression.  This includes coming out and dealing with harassment at school or in the workplace.  These situations can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and can even leave someone feeling traumatized.  While these components do not cause eating disorders, they are known to be contributing factors.  LGBT individuals also typically face additional barriers to seeking out treatment.  Sometimes their family and friends are not accepting, or they may not feel they have a strong support system.  It is crucial that if someone within this community is struggling with an eating disorder, they seek professional help that is culturally competent.  


What is the difference between anorexia and bulimia?
Someone struggling with anorexia nervosa severely restricts their intake, whereas someone struggling with bulimia nervosa does not. Someone diagnosed with anorexia may binge and purge, like someone with bulimia nervosa does; however, the person with anorexia is severely below ideal body weight and the person with bulimia may not be. Someone with an eating disorder may cycle between anorexia and bulimia, and can only be diagnosed by a qualified healthcare professional.
What should I do if I think I have an eating disorder? I'm afraid to tell my family.
You took a big step admitting you need help. The Eating Disorder Foundation encourages you to reach out to someone you trust. Many people feel relieved after they’re told someone. But don’t stop there. Seek professional help as well.
We have a good friend who has a lot of eating disorder symptoms. She denies having a problem and says she’s just “naturally thin” or “not hungry,” but we have heard her vomiting after eating. What should we do?
You are doing the right thing to try and help your friend. Eating disorders are serious diseases that can be deadly. Overcoming an eating disorder usually requires professional support, so encourage your friend to seek help from a qualified professional. Don’t place blame on them and don’t try to diagnose them. Offer support and empathy, and do not give up.
Is it my fault that my child suffers from an eating disorder?
No. Your child’s eating disorder is not your fault. There are many factors that contribute to the development of an eating disorder.  You can, however, encourage recovery with love and support.  Seek professional help to find out how you can best be supportive in your child’s unique journey towards recovery.
Can eating disorders be fatal?

Yes. Eating disorders have the second highest fatality rate among all mental illnesses. The first thing you should do if you are concerned for yourself or a loved one is find a doctor who understands eating disorders and ask for a check up. Be as honest as you can because they can help you when they know the truth.


Is recovery possible?

Yes. Recovery is possible.  The Eating Disorder Foundation believes recovery is a journey that is worth it!