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Facts and Statistics

Facts and Statistics on BulimiaThose who struggle with bulimia nervosa may hide their binging and purging for years, living with the pain of this disorder for a long time before they seek help. Bulimia causes intense feelings of shame and a deep inner lack of control. Because this eating disorder is often so well hidden by the girls and women who have it, the condition may be more prevalent than we realize. Statistics from the National Institute for Mental Health(NIMH) reveal that:

  • Bulimia nervosa affects 0.6 percent of American adults during their lifetime.
  • Within any given year, 1.5 percent of females have displayed symptoms of bulimia, as opposed to 0.5 percent of males.
  • Bulimia is most common in people between the ages of 18 and 59.
  • The average age when bulimia begins is 20.

Facts and statistics about bulimia don’t tell the whole story of this eating disorder, but they are a good place to start if you’re trying to understand your own behavior or the behaviors of someone you love.

How Is Bulimia Different From Anorexia?

In many ways, anorexia nervosa and bulimia overlap. Anorexics often practice purging behaviors, such as exercising vigorously or using diet pills, laxatives or enemas to eliminate unwanted nutrients. Both disorders are characterized by an obsession with being thin. But bulimia differs from anorexia in several important ways, according to John Hopkins Medicine:

  • Unlike anorexia, bulimia may not necessarily lead to extreme weight loss. Many bulimics are of average weight, overweight or slightly underweight.
  • The binge-purge cycle is an ongoing behavior in bulimia nervosa. While anorexics may go through periods of overeating followed by severe fasting or purging, this isn’t the hallmark sign of anorexia.
  • Substance abuse is more common in women with bulimia than in women with anorexia. According to research published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders, women with bulimia were more likely to abuse drugs like alcohol, amphetamines, cocaine, marijuana and prescription tranquilizers.
  • Approaches to treatment for bulimia and anorexia can be very different. Impulse control is often a significant problem for women with bulimia, who may consume hundreds or thousands of calories in one binge episode. Therapy may focus on restoring a sense of control and balance to a life that feels completely unmanageable.

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How Many People Get Treatment for Bulimia?

Statistics indicate that bulimia is an undertreated disorder in the United States, and that those who do get help aren’t receiving the level of care they need to make a complete recovery. According to information gathered by the South Carolina Department of Mental Health:

  • The treatment rate for Americans with eating disorders is about 10 percent.
  • Many eating disorders specialists recommend that individuals with eating disorders receive three to six months of intensive inpatient care.
  • Approximately 80 percent of the females who receive treatment for eating disorders are discharged from care too soon.
  • Health insurance providers may or may not provide coverage for treatment.

In spite of these statistics, comprehensive treatment for bulimia — including family-based therapy for parents or partners — has proven to be very effective at treating this eating disorder. Research conducted at the University of Chicago Medical Center showed that 40 percent of adolescents who received family-based treatment for bulimia were able to stop binging and purging, compared with 18 percent who received only individual therapy. The eating disorder recovery programs at Futures offer a personalized approach to healing. Our treatment plans address the physical, psychological, emotional and relational aspects of bulimia nervosa. Call our intake counselors to find out how you and your loved ones can begin the recovery process today.