About Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are a serious, life-threatening mental illness.

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Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness.

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Eating disorders are a leading cause of death for women between the ages of 17 and 24.

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It's estimated that 1 million Canadians meet the diagnostic criteria for an eating disorder.

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Eating disordered affect men, women, boys and girls. 20% of individuals suffering with Anorexia or Bulimia are male.

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Eating disorders are serious, complex psychiatric illnesses in which individuals experience severe disturbances in their eating behaviours and related emotions.

Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate among any psychiatric illness. At every age, people with eating disorders have a significantly higher mortality rate than is standard – with most frequent causes of death resulting from starvation, suicide or cardiac arrest. Current estimates predict that 10% of individuals suffering from anorexia will die within 10 years of its onset.

In many cases, eating disorders occur alongside other psychiatric disorders, including anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse. An individual may not have all symptoms for any one eating disorder. It is also possible for symptoms and diagnosis to change over time.

The most common traits shared by people affected by eating disorders are extreme emotions, attitudes or behaviours about food, exercise and body image.

Who is affected by eating disorders?

An eating disorder can happen to anyone – regardless of gender, age or background. An estimated 1 million Canadians meet the diagnostic criteria for an eating disorder.

Eating disorders affect individuals as young as 5 years old, to seniors. Most eating disorders develop in adolescence, with individuals between the ages of 20 – 29 having the greatest risk of mortality.

Boys are men are also affected – an estimated 20% of those suffering from Anorexia or Bulimia are male.

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Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses. But the good news is they are treatable. With the right treatment, recovery is possible.

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How are eating disorders treated?

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to treating eating disorders, but we know that early detection and treatment can ultimately lead to higher rates of recovery. It takes time, rigorous treatment programs, ongoing support and unconditional love – but recovery is possible and individuals can go on to lead healthy, fulfilling lives.

Most treatment programs include a combination of psychological therapy (psychotherapy), nutrition education, medical monitoring and sometimes medication.

A priority in the early phase of treatment is to establish some degree of normalcy with eating and weight. Restoration of weight is especially crucial with children and adolescents, whose growth and development could be stunted or compromised. Equally important is addressing underlying psychological issues as part of the treatment process.

A wide range of therapies can be used to help an individual on the road to recovery. Common approaches include:

For many, seeking treatment is only the first step in the recovery process. Managing eating disorders requires ongoing (even life-long) support for some.

Program Success Stories

“Before Waterstone Foundation, I felt hopeless in overcoming my eating disorder. I am proud to say I am two years in remission and fully enjoying my life."

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How can we help?

Despite the overwhelming number of individuals affected by eating disorders, treatment options remain limited and capacity insufficient to address the urgent needs of this community. Wait times vary across the country, but can take anywhere from 8 months to five years for inpatient beds. As a result, many patients go untreated or under-treated, which adversely affects quality of life and health outcomes.

WaterStone Foundation has worked with a wide range of both private clinics and public hospitals to expand capacity, pilot new initiatives, and provide funding to individuals who cannot afford urgent treatment. We also fund educational campaigns and workshops.

relies on donations from the community to invest in programs and projects that make a difference to individuals and families affected by eating disorders.