This article describes quick facts and statistics about the three most common eating disorders, anorexia, binge-eating, and bulimia.

Facts About Anorexia

An estimated 0.5 to 3.7 percent of women suffer from anorexia nervosa in their lifetime. In any given year,the prevalence rate is approximately 0.4 percent in women (it is unknown in men). Women experience this condition 10 times more often than men.

Symptoms of anorexia include:

  • Resistance to maintaining body weight at or above a minimally normal weight for age and height
  • Intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat, even though underweight
  • Disturbance in the way in which one’s body weight or shape is experienced, undue influence of body weight or shape on self-evaluation, or denial of the seriousness of the current low body weight
  • Infrequent or absent menstrual periods (in females who have reached puberty)

Related: Symptoms of Anorexia

People with this disorder see themselves as overweight even though they are dangerously thin. The process of eating becomes an obsession. Unusual eating habits develop, such as avoiding food and meals, picking out a few foods and eating these in small quantities, or carefully weighing and portioning food. People with anorexia may repeatedly check their body weight, and many engage in other techniques to control their weight, such as intense and compulsive exercise, or purging by means of vomiting and abuse of laxatives, enemas, and diuretics. Girls with anorexia often experience a delayed onset of their first menstrual period.

The course and outcome of anorexia nervosa vary across individuals: some fully recover after a single episode; some have a fluctuating pattern of weight gain and relapse; and others experience a chronically deteriorating course of illness over many years.

The mortality rate among people with anorexia has been estimated at 0.56 percent per year, or approximately 5.6 percent per decade. This rate is about 12 times higher than the annual death rate due to all causes of death among females ages 15-24 in the general population.

The most common causes of death are complications of the disorder, such as cardiac arrest or electrolyte imbalance, and suicide.

Facts About Binge Eating

An estimated 2 to 3 percent of women suffer from binge-eating in their lifetime. In any given year,the prevalence rate is approximately 1.6 percent in women and 0.8 percent on men. The disorder is more prevalent in those seeing weight-loss treatment than in the general population.

Symptoms of binge eating include:

  • In a given period of time, an episode of eating an amount of food larger than most people would eat in a similar period of time and circumstances.
  • A feeling of a lack of control over eating during the episode of over-eating.
  • Eating more quickly.
  • Eating until feeling uncomfortably full.
  • Eating large amount of food even when not hungry.
  • Eating alone out of embarrassment.
  • Feeling digested with oneself for one’s eating behaviors.
  • Must occur at least once a week for 3 months or longer and cause significant distress in the person.

Related: Symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder

The essential feature of binge-eating disorder (BED) is recurrent episodes of binge eating that occur at least once a week, for at least three months. These episodes result in a person feeling uncomfortably full, depressed, guilty, and embarrassed. As with other eating disorders, a person with binge eating disorder feels ashamed of their eating behaviors and attempt to hide them or engage in them inconspicuously.

Binge-eating disorder occurs in both normal-weight and overweight individuals. It appears to be equally prevalent across all racial and ethnic groups. Binge eating appears to run in families.

Facts About Bulimia

An estimated 1.1 percent to 4.2 percent of women have bulimia nervosa in their lifetime. In the past 12 months, the prevalence rate among women is between 1 and 1.5 percent (it is unknown in men). Women experience this condition 10 times more often than men.

Symptoms of bulimia include:

  • Recurrent episodes of binge eating, characterized by eating an excessive amount of food within a discrete period of time and by a sense of lack of control over eating during the episode
  • Recurrent inappropriate compensatory behavior in order to prevent weight gain, such as self-induced vomiting or misuse of laxatives, diuretics, enemas, or other medications (purging); fasting; or excessive exercise
  • The binge eating and inappropriate compensatory behaviors both occur, on average, at least twice a week for 3 months
  • Self-evaluation is unduly influenced by body shape and weight

Related: Symptoms of Bulimia

Because purging or other compensatory behavior follows the binge-eating episodes, people with bulimia usually weigh within the normal range for their age and height. However, like individuals with anorexia, they may fear gaining weight, desire to lose weight, and feel intensely dissatisfied with their bodies. People with bulimia often perform the behaviors in secrecy, feeling disgusted and ashamed when they binge, yet relieved once they purge.



Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition.

National Institute of Mental Health