“Eating disorders are a complicated mental illness that is both genetic and social.“  - Sara Katherine Smith, John Hopkins University

Eating disorders are an unspoken secret around the world. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) published by the American Psychiatric Association, this secret is an addiction and a disease. Here is a video of the damages eating disorders do and a listing of the disease Rewrite Beautiful is trying to prevent.


In the United States, 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, or an eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS) For various reasons, many cases are likely not to be reported. 


  • Eating disorders are the most deadly of all mental illnesses. (1)
  • The mortality rate associated with anorexia nervosa is 12 times higher than the death rate associated with all causes of death for females 15-24 years old. (2)
  • There was a 119% increase of eating disorder related hospitalizations among children under 12 years old between the years 1999 and 2006. (3)
  • Over 1/3 of all Americans are obese. (4)
  • 81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat.(5)
  • 42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner. (6)

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is an extremely dangerous, life-threatening eating disorder in which a person intentionally deprives themselves of food and can literally starve to death in an attempt to be what they consider "thin." The disorder involves extreme weight loss at least 15 percent below the individual's "ideal" weight and a refusal to maintain body weight that is even minimally normal for their age and height. Even if they become extremely emaciated, an anorexic person's distorted body image convinces them they are "fat." The self-esteem of individuals with this disorder is directly dependent on their body shape and weight. Weight loss for them is viewed as an impressive achievement and an indication of extraordinary self-discipline. The mortality rate associated with anorexia nervosa is 12 times higher than the death rate of ALL causes of death for females 15 – 24 years old.


The essential features of a binge-eating disorder are recurrent, out-of-control episodes of consuming abnormally large amounts of food. People with this disorder eat whether they are hungry or not and continue eating well past being uncomfortably full. If left untreated, the consequences of binge-eating can be severe. The disorder often leads to obesity, which is responsible for as many as 300,000 deaths year, or other serious and often life-threatening eating disorders such as bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa. Those who suffer from binge-eating disorder are also at high risk of substance-related disorders and serious psychiatric conditions, including depression, panic disorders, anxiety disorders, and personality disorders.

Bulimia Nervosa

People who have bulimia nervosa routinely "binge," consuming large amounts of food in a very short period of time and immediately "purge," ridding their bodies of the just-eaten food by self-inducing vomiting, taking enemas, or abusing laxatives or other medications. If left untreated, bulimia nervosa can lead to serious and even life-threatening problems, such as depression, anxiety disorders, heart damage, kidney damage, injury to all parts of the digestive system, and severe dental damage. Those with bulimia nervosa are at risk for dangerous impulsive, self-destructive behaviors, such as sexual promiscuity, kleptomania, self-mutilation, and alcohol and/or drug abuse.

Compulsive Eating Disorder

Compulsive eaters feel incapable of controlling how much or how often they eat. They may feel unable to stop eating, eat very fast, eat when they're not hungry, eat when they're only alone, or eat nearly non-stop throughout the day. Compulsive eaters often over-indulge in sugary foods and use them in an attempt to elevate their mood. When they don't eat the foods they crave, they often experience severe withdrawal symptoms.


The consequences of obesity can be severe. If left untreated, an obese person is at pronounced risk of developing serious mental disorders, such as depression, personality disorders, or anxiety disorders as a direct consequence of their obesity. For many, obesity leads to chronic and often life-threatening eating disorders such as bulimia nervosa or anorexia nervosa. People who are obese are also at much greater risk of developing a variety of serious medical conditions including high blood pressure, stroke, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, breast cancer, gallbladder disease, upper respiratory problems, arthritis, skin disorders, menstrual irregularities, ovarian abnormalities, and complications of pregnancy. Obesity is one of our nation's most critical health problems and is directly responsible for as many as 300,000 deaths each year.


Source 1 - American Journal of Psychiatry, Vol. 152 (7), July 1995, p. 1073-1074, Sullivan, Patrick F.
Source 2 -  American Journal of Psychiatry, Vol. 152 (7), July 1995, p. 1073-1074, Sullivan, Patrick F.
Source 3 - Health Care Cost and Utilization Project, Yafu Zhao, M.S. (Social & Scientific Systems), and William Encinosa, Ph.D. (AHRQ)
Source 4 – Center for Disease Control, NCHS Data Brief, No.82, January 2012, Cynthia L. Ogden, Ph.D.; Margaret D. Carroll, M.S.P.H.; Brian K. Kit, M.D., M.P.H.; and Katherine M. Flegal, Ph.D.
Source 5 – Mellin, L., McNutt, S., Hu, Y., Schreiber, G.B., Crawford, P., & Obarzanek, E. (1991). A longitudinal study of the dietary practices of black and white girls 9 and 10 years old at enrollment: The NHLBI growth and health study. Journal of Adolescent Health, 23-37.
Source 6 - Collins, M.E. (1991). Body figure perceptions and preferences among pre-adolescent children. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 199-208.