Teen anorexia nervosa is one of the most common eating disorders among adolescents and teens. Teens suffering from anorexia eat very little, often exercise compulsively, and have a distorted view of their bodies so that they think they are fat even if they become dangerously thin. Teen anorexia is an illness that can cause serious health problems or death, so teens with anorexia need to get medical treatment to recover from their eating disorder. Because teen anorexia is often associated with feelings of shame or guilt, not all teens get help, so the picture of teen anorexia is still incomplete. The following statistics represent what researchers currently know or estimate about teen anorexia.
Teen Eating Disorder Statistics
Eating disorders such as anorexia usually develop during the teenage years, though eating disorders can begin earlier or later in life:
- Most people with anorexia develop it while in their teens, but people as young as 5 and as old as 60 have been diagnosed with anorexia.
- Many researchers are concerned that young people are developing anorexia even earlier – adolescents between 8 and 11 are being diagnosed with anorexia more frequently.
- According to some estimates, about 3 percent of teens has an eating disorder.
Teen Anorexia Statistics
- 90% of teens with anorexia are girls.
- About 50% of teens with anorexia also suffer from bulimia
- The majority of teens diagnosed with anorexia are white.
- Anorexia is the third most common chronic illness among adolescents.
- Teen athletes are at higher risk for eating disorders.
- 13% of teens participating in a judged sport suffer from an eating disorder.
- 20% of elite athletes suffer from an eating disorder.
Researchers are not certain that the majority of teens who suffer from anorexia are white. The difference may be due to a variety of factors, such as genetics, culture, or the chances that a teen will seek help and therefore be diagnosed. It is also noted that while trying to achieve a well-balanced diet with reasonable proportions is healthy, teens who frequently engage in fad diets or extreme dieting techniques may also be at higher risk for developing teen anorexia.E
Effects of Teen Anorexia
- For some teens the onset of anorexia is triggered by a traumatic event, such as abuse, while for others it may be associated with unrealistic expectations about body image or pressure from the media, family, coaches, or friends.
- Some teens have a single bout of anorexia, while others struggle with it throughout their lives. The teen may get progressively worse, or go through cycles of recovery and relapse.
- Similarly, teens may respond differently to different types of therapy, such as group therapy, behavior modification, and nutrition therapy. Effective therapy usually lasts at least a year, and is generally outpatient unless the teen’s case is very severe. Teens who are treated early have a better chance of recovery.
- Between 5 and 20 percent of teens with anorexia will die because of the disorder.
Teens with anorexia need medical treatment without delay so they can recover from their eating disorder. If you suspect your teen may have anorexia, get help immediately. Teens with anorexia should be treated by doctors, mental health professionals, and dieticians. Individual therapy is necessary to help the teen learn better eating habits and a better attitude about food and body image, and family therapy can help the troubled teen to have a supportive environment during his or her recovery.
Dixie Farley, U.S. Food and Drug Administration/Office of Public Affairs, “On the Teen Scene” Eating Disorders Require Medical Attention,” in FDA Consumer magazine, March 1992 [online]
Nemours Foundation, TeensHealth, “Eating Disorders: Anorexia and Bulimia” [online]
National Eating Disorders Association [online]
National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders [online]