- Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. This is in part because of the medical complications of the illness, and also because of high rates of suicide.
- Research on eating disorders is grossly underfunded. An estimated 30 million individuals in the US are suffering from an eating disorder, and the NIH funded $28million in studies in 2011. Compare this to an estimated 5.1 million people with Alzheimer's funded by the NIH at $450 million. Huge discrepancy.
- A symptom of an eating disorder tends to be minimization or denial of the problem. This makes it very difficult to treat. It's hard to help someone who doesn't think they need or doesn't want help.
- Our methods of treatment still aren't that great. With treatment an estimated 60% of people with an eating disorder will recover. This doesn't account for the large percentage of people who don't get treatment. And without treatment an estimated 20% of people will die from their eating disorder.
- Insurance often doesn't cover treatment. Even with insurance coverage, residential treatment can still cost over $20,000 out of pocket. And then the individual still needs to step down to outpatient treatment to have the best shot at sustained recovery. In my experience insurance doesn't cover dietitian services for most of my clients. So they pay me out of pocket for outpatient treatment that sometimes lasts for years. This adds up over time. Combine that with paying for therapy, medical visits and tests, and other associated costs of treatment and it's a significant investment, one that not everyone can afford. NEDA has resources to help families navigate insurance.
The good news – recovery is possible. Don't get discouraged by these statistics. They are the reality of a field that is still relatively new in the scientific community. We do need to be aware of these truths however so that we can continue to get better at preventing, identifying and treating this terrible illness that has already taken way too many lives.