Eating Disorders

Eating Disorders Are Serious, Life-threatening Mental Illnesses But They Are Treatable.

Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness and is the leading cause of death for women between 17 and 24 years of age.

At every age, people with eating disorders have a significantly higher mortality rate than is standard with the most frequent causes of death resulting from starvation, suicide, and cardiac arrest. Current estimates predict that 10 per cent of individuals suffering from anorexia will die within 10 years of its onset.

People experiencing an eating disorder aren’t necessarily underweight. They may be normal weight or even overweight. An eating disorder can happen to anyone, regardless of gender, age or background.

People might not have all symptoms for any one eating disorder. It’s also possible for symptoms and diagnosis to change over time. The most common traits shared by people with eating disorders are extreme emotions, attitudes and behaviors about food, exercise, and body image.

Icon of a woman

Eating disorders are a leading cause of death for women between 17 and 24 years of age


There Is Treatment and Recovery Is Possible.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to treating eating disorders but there are some common therapies and programs that have proven success in helping people get on the road to recovery. Most treatment programs typically include a combination of psychological therapy (psychotherapy), nutrition education, medical monitoring and sometimes medications.

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

There is a wide range of therapies that can be used to help an individual on the road to recovery. Family Based Treatment (FBT) for children and adolescents, Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT), Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Interpersonal Therapy are examples of common therapy approaches to dealing with Eating Disorders. Emotion Focused Family Therapy (EFFT) is also a vital part of many treatment programs and is applicable to any age group. This approach trains caregivers as emotion coaches in the recovery process.

For many people treatment is only the first step in the recovery process. Managing Eating Disorders requires ongoing and even lifelong support and help for some people.

Wait Times for Treatment Continue to Grow.

Despite the high number of people affected by eating disorders, the treatment options are limited and capacity insufficient to address the urgent needs of this community. Wait times vary throughout the country, but some wait times can take anywhere from eight months to five years for an inpatient bed. As a result, many patients go untreated or under-treated, adversely affecting quality of life and health outcomes.


Fast Facts

  • About 1 million Canadians would meet the diagnostic criteria for an eating disorder.
  • Eating disorders affects girls as young as 5 years old, boys and men, too.
  • People between 20-29 years old are at greatest risk of developing an eating disorder.
  • There is no known single cause.
  • An estimated 20% of people suffering with Anorexia or Bulimia are males.
  • Early identification and treatment are the most effective defense.

*Statistics from National Initiative for Eating Disorders