Why are eating disorders important to study?

  • Eating disorders (ED) are complex mental illnesses that afflict nearly 5% of young women.
  • Anorexia nervosa (AN), an illness affecting nearly 1% of young women, has a 5-10% mortality rate, the highest of any psychiatric disorder.
  • Bulimia nervosa (BN) affects nearly 3% of women.
  • Only about half of women with AN and/or BN recovered from their ED 5 years after treatment. 
  • Substantial evidence exists that AN emerges in response to biological, psychological, and social factors. 
  • For BN, there is strong evidence supporting psychosocial factors related to peer perceptions and social norms, and biological components related to impulsivity. 
  • Patients with EDs struggle to recover because there are few evidence-based treatments, a limited understanding of the pathophysiology, and even less understanding of how pathology and treatments are related.