Eating disorders don't just look one way, and don't just affect one kind of person. And people who don't feel like they fit the "typical" profile might avoid getting help, out of stigma or shame. That's the overwhelming message of eating disorder specialists, who tell Bustle that many different factors can influence eating disorder risk. Statistics about eating disorders show that things like race, gender, and sexuality shape the way in which eating disorders are diagnosed and treated every day.
For any kind of disordered eating, it's important to bust myths and stigmas so that people can get the help they need. "Eating disorders affect men and women across all cultures and can present at any age," Dr. Lorna Richards, MRCPsych, a psychiatrist specializing in adult eating disorders at LifeWorks, a private rehabilitation center, tells Bustle. "The risk for those sitting outside of the perceived demographic can be devastating because it prevents or delays recognition and access to treatment.
Disordered eating also has to do with more than clinical definitions. "We need to pay more attention to 'subclinical' disordered eating, because it’s extremely widespread and can be just as damaging to mental and physical health as diagnosed eating disorders," registered dietitian Christy Harrison tells Bustle. Subclinical disordered eating, she says, is any behavior that doesn't quite fit the medical definition of an eating disorder, but is still harmful — like chronic restrained eating, restricting major food groups, fasting, using laxatives to lose weight, or binge eating.
Here are nine statistics about eating disorders that experts want you to know.