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Eating Disorder Statistics in Boston

Eating disorders affect people all across the United States, and Boston is no exception. In this city, both men and women are struggling with anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and other similar issues. Fortunately, people in the Boston area who are dealing with the symptoms of an eating disorder can find plenty of eating disorder treatment facilities nearby.

Defining Eating Disorders

In order to understand eating disorder statistics, it is useful to define the most common eating disorders studied. Below are basic definitions of the most prevalent eating disorders.

1. Anorexia nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is defined as an intense fear of gaining weight coupled with severe restrictions on food intake. Most people who have anorexia nervosa exhibit signs and symptoms, such as restrictive eating behaviors, excessive exercise, a preoccupation with weight gain, absence of menstrual periods, brittle nails, hair loss and more. In most cases, people who have anorexia nervosa will also be significantly underweight.

2. Bulimia nervosa

Bulimia nervosa is similar to anorexia nervosa in that sufferers are afraid of gaining weight. However, someone with bulimia nervosa typically goes through a cycle that involves bingeing on large amounts of food in a single sitting, followed by some form of purging. To purge the foods consumed, the individual may induce vomiting, take laxatives and/or engage in excessive amounts of exercise.

Someone with bulimia nervosa may be underweight, a normal weight or even slightly overweight. They may hoard food, eat in secret and/or disappear to the bathroom shortly after meals.

3. Binge eating disorder

Binge eating disorder is typically characterized by intermittent periods of bingeing, followed by extreme guilt or shame. Someone with binge eating disorder may eat even when they are not hungry, eat food in secret and abuse other substances, such as alcohol.

Other variations of eating disorders may also exist, but the three disorders listed above are the most common.

General Eating Disorder Statistics

At this time, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not track the incidence of eating disorders nationwide, making it difficult to find specific data. However, studies and surveys seeking to find out how many people are suffering from eating disorders are available, and other organizations have published data related to the incidence of eating disorders throughout the country.

According to Western New Mexico University:

  • At least one in 100 adolescent girls will develop anorexia nervosa.
  • As many as three in 100 young women will develop bulimia nervosa.
  • Bulimia affects as many as 15 in 100 college-age women.
  • As adults, 2 percent of people will suffer from an eating disorder.
  • 9 out of 10 people suffering from an eating disorder are female.
  • 1 in 4 people suffering from binge eating disorder are male.
  • Although eating disorders are most prevalent among whites and women, these disorders can affect males and minorities as well.

The National Institute of Mental Health reports that eating disorders are often connected to mental health disturbances. For example:

  • Nearly half of all people with anorexia nervosa will also have an anxiety disorder.
  • More than 80 percent of all people with bulimia nervosa will also have an anxiety disorder.
  • More than 65 percent of all people with binge eating disorder will also have an anxiety disorder.

The incidence of other mental health disorders, such as mood disorders, substance abuse, and impulse control disorders, is also elevated among people with an eating disorder. For some people with eating disorders, more than one co-occurring mental health disorder is present.

Studies have shown that enrolling in a program at an eating disorder treatment centercan improve the symptoms of any eating disorder, allowing people to live a healthier and happier life. However, many people who are struggling with an eating disorder don’t get the help they need. In fact, according to data published by the National Institute of Mental Health:

  • Only one-third of people who report that they have anorexia nervosa have sought professional treatment for their eating disorder.
  • For people with bulimia nervosa, approximately 43.2 percent report having sought professional treatment for their eating disorder.
  • Approximately 43.6 percent of people with binge eating disorder have sought professional treatment specifically for their eating disorder.

Boston Eating Disorder Statistics

There isn’t a lot of specific information available about the incidence of eating disorders in Boston. However, the state of Massachusetts operates multiple programs to help people with eating disorder recovery, and many of these are treatment options in Boston and the nearby area. Also, Massachusetts offers social services programs and health insurance options to help people in need of eating disorder treatment. For example, the Department of Mental Health in Massachusetts operates several inpatient psychiatric care facilities, along with community-based support services. Case management and emergency services are also available for men and women who have eating disorders in Boston and the surrounding area.

What the Statistics Tell Us

Unfortunately, there are limited statistics available that are specific to Boston. However, the statistics collected and published about eating disorders across the nation can be applied to Boston. At this time, the population of Boston is above 685,000 people. Of the people currently living in this city, statistics tell us that approximately 13,700 will have a diagnosable eating disorder at some time during their adult life. For these individuals, professional treatment is the best way to overcome the disorder and live a better life. In fact, without professional treatment, eating disorders can lead to a host of serious and potentially fatal consequences.

How Treatment Can Help

Individuals who are dealing with eating disorders in Boston and the surrounding area can benefit from professional treatment. While in treatment, patients spend time confronting each of the factors that led to the development of their disorder so they can resolve each issue. For example, many people who have eating disorders have a history of trauma. If the treatment professionals discover that trauma contributed to the development of the individual’s disorder, they can recommend specific treatments that help the patient to deal with the trauma in a healthy way.

Likewise, many patients who have eating disorders struggle with body dysmorphic disorders as well. These disorders affect the way an individual views his or her own body, causing an unreasonably negative perception. As a result, the individual takes steps to “improve” his or her appearance, leading to disordered eating habits. When treatment professionals can help patients understand body dysmorphic disorder and resolve some of their inaccurate views of self, it is easier for the patients to recover from their eating disorder.

Furthermore, many eating disorder treatment facilities offer programs designed specifically for patients who also have a co-occurring mental health disorder. As discussed above, the prevalence of other mental health disorders among patients with eating disorders is surprisingly high. For many of these patients, the mental health disorder exacerbates the symptoms of the eating disorder and may have even contributed to its initial development. For example, people who have both an anxiety disorder and anorexia nervosa may use food restriction in part as a way of managing extreme anxiety. Dealing with these other mental health concerns can dramatically improve recovery rates among people with eating disorders.

Eating Disorder Treatment Options

Regardless of the nature of an individual’s eating disorder, an appropriate treatment program is available somewhere in Boston or nearby. For many people with this type of disorder, inpatient treatment is the best choice. While in an inpatient eating disorder treatment program, patients can focus all of their time on recovery. They are also under the constant supervision of treatment professionals, thus making it harder for them to relapse or engage in disordered eating behaviors in secret. In addition, inpatient eating disorder treatment programs offer continuous peer support. All patients enrolled in the facility’s programs can cheer one another on and offer compassion as they work toward the common goal of recovery.

In cases where inpatient eating disorder treatment is not a possibility, outpatient services may also be available. Day treatment programs that provide high levels of support can be effective for patients who can’t enroll in an inpatient program. Likewise, outpatient eating disorder treatment can also be used to support individuals who have already spent time in an inpatient program and are now ready to begin the transition back to society.

Choosing the Right Eating Disorder Treatment Program

For people interested in entering an eating disorder treatment program in or around Boston, a range of options will be available. For this reason, it is important to research various treatment programs in advance. One of the most important considerations when choosing an eating disorder treatment program is the treatment approach utilized. While some treatment programs may focus on evidence-based approaches, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, others may offer only alternative approaches to treatment. For the best results, patients should seek out a program that customizes its services based on their needs and offers a variety of treatment options to provide the best possible chance of a successful recovery.

Eating disorder treatment programs charge different fees for their services. Although every patient must consider the affordability of the program, it is important to remember that cost should not be the only factor considered when selecting an eating disorder treatment facility. Because the goal of treatment is to facilitate eating disorder recovery, the program’s effectiveness and success rates should always be a priority. In fact, if there is no appropriate treatment program available in the patient’s area, travel is encouraged.

Eating Disorder Treatment at Monte Nido

Monte Nido is an eating disorder treatment network that offers both residential and day treatment options in locations all across the United States. In Boston, Monte Nido operates a residential eating disorder treatment facility known as Monte Nido Laurel Hill. At this facility, we work to create a safe, healing environment in which patients have all of the resources they need to recover effectively. Our goal is not only to alleviate symptoms but also to help patients restore their nutritional and physiological balance while developing a healthier relationship with food. While in our facility, patients will learn about how their disorder is affecting their lives. They will also learn how to overcome disordered thinking patterns, attitudes, and behaviors that are causing them harm. Before leaving the facility, patients will have built the coping skills they need to maintain their recovery even without continuous support and supervision. Medical and nursing care is also available.

At Monte Nido, we treat every individual who comes to us for help as a human being first and a patient second. We offer a caring, supportive environment where clients can feel safe to express their feelings. Please contact us today to learn more about the programs we offer at the Monte Nido Laurel Hill facility in Boston.

Melissa Orshan Spann, PhD, LMHC, RTY 200, is Chief Clinical Officer at Monte Nido & Affiliates, overseeing the clinical operations and programming for over 50 programs across the U.S. Dr. Spann is a Certified Eating Disorder Specialist and clinical supervisor as well as an accomplished presenter and passionate clinician who has spent her career working in the eating disorder field in higher levels of care. She is a member of the Academy for Eating Disorders and the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals where she serves on the national certification committee, supervision faculty, and is on the board of her local chapter. She received her doctoral degree from Drexel University, master’s degree from the University of Miami, and bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida.