Portfolio of Hope


Between 2% and 4% of women will suffer from Anorexia Nervosa over the course of their lifetime, with women diagnosed with Anorexia far outnumbering males diagnosed with Anorexia, on a 10:1 ratio. The reason for such a discrepancy is obvious- it’s as a result of the unrealistic expectations/the beauty standards, that are imposed on women. Expectations which see women being put under so much pressure- societal pressure- to look a certain way, with diet culture and internalised fat phobia only serving to contribute to the widespread development of eating disorders amongst women…

Despite eating disorders such as Anorexia being overwhelmingly more prevalent in girls and women than in boys and men, as is highlighted above, it should be noted, however, that in the last five years, eating disorders have in fact risen by 128% in the latter demographic (in boys and young men), with 280 hospital admissions being reported in 2015-2016, compared to 637 in 2020-2021. This is likely due to the Covid-19 pandemic whereby, at a time of forced isolation (lockdowns), the ‘perfect storm’ was created for eating disorders to thrive- in secrecy and isolation. This is proven by the fact that, referring back to women, in a sample of UK women with eating disorders, 80% stated that their symptoms had gotten worse during the lockdown (National Institute of Health). This contributes to the increase in hospital admissions by 84% in the last five years. Children and young people with eating disorders have been the worst affected, with a rise of 90% in the five-year period, and a 35.4% increase in the last year alone. An alarming increase of 79% is also seen in adults across the five years (Royal College of Psychiatrists, 2022), again, this largely being due to the effects of the pandemic.


Despite the name, people with eating disorders will often (though not always) struggle with more than just their eating. For example, there are very high rates of self-harm and comorbid depression existing amongst people with eating disorders…

Another discrepancy across eating disorder diagnoses, aside from gender, can be seen here, in the context of sexual orientation (sexuality)… Compared to their heterosexual counterparts, sexual minority (i.e., LGBTQ+ ) young adults hospitalised for an eating disorder, were more likely to report a psychiatric comorbidity (69% vs. 48%)… This is perhaps due to the nature of sexuality- just as one can’t choose their sexual orientation, they can’t control it, either. They can’t make the decision to be straight or to just ‘not be gay.’ And so, eating disorders might develop in LGBTQ+ people in response to them feeling a lack of control. They might turn to food in an attempt to grasp some degree of control back over a life that, in struggling to come to terms with and accept their sexuality, has otherwise felt largely uncontrollable.

Though, to be clear, heterosexual people do also report very high levels of psychiatric comorbidity (48%). This is likely due to the all-encompassing nature of eating disorders, something which doesn’t change just because someone is male or female, gay or straight. ‘All-encompassing’ because, eating disorders are not just about food and weight and body image, despite what the stereotypes may say, they might manifest in those ways, but the real problem runs so much deeper than that. Often it comes from a deep rooted, debilitating sense of low self worth, something which can lead to social anxiety, paranoia, depression, OCD, etc., taking root…

Because eating disorders are so all-encompassing, when in the depths of an ED, people lack the energy (both physically speaking and mentally speaking) to maintain hobbies, relationships, friendships, etc. Young people might fall behind on their school work, relationships with their friends might break down, they might lose their whole sense of self, forgetting who they were before their eating disorder diagnosis, not knowing, and, perhaps not wanting, to rediscover themselves now- the prospect of letting go of their ED too scary, too hard. Considering all of this then, it’s unsurprising that rates of psychiatric comorbidity amongst people with eating disorders is so high…


Perhaps the most shocking and harrowing statistic; that Anorexia Nervosa is associated with the highest mortality rate of all psychiatric disorders, more so than schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, substance abuse disorders, and depression. One person will die as a result of an eating disorder every 62 minutes (Harvard University, 2020). One in five of these deaths will be due to suicide, with the rest being due to the medical complications that eating disorders come with- organ failure, heart attacks etc., a result of severe malnourishment…

Despite its alarmingly high mortality rate, however, 75% of people with an eating disorder don’t seek any professional help. Of the people who do seek help, 25% who recover from Anorexia after treatment may relapse, and 20% (1 in 5) may die.

Adult remission rates for Anorexia are only around 20-30%, even when the best available treatment is offered. Why? Because, the longer eating disorders go ‘unchallenged’ (i.e., without treatment), the more ingrained they become in one’s life… And, considering that 90% of cases are diagnosed in people before the age of 20, adults with Anorexia are likely to have been ‘sicker’ for longer, thus making it considerably harder for them to let go of their ED, as they end up ‘stuck’ in a self-sustaining cycle of disordered thoughts and behaviours that become seemingly impossible to break. Like OCD, not eating becomes a compulsion, something which must be performed in order to ease anxiety and feelings of discomfort.

For a more optimistic statistic though, up to 60% of adolescents with Anorexia will make a full recovery when they receive early expert treatment, so there is hope.

I hope that this post has given you something to think about. Eating disorders evidently cost lives. This is why it is so important, as the statistics I have outlined above highlight, that early intervention is offered in order to give people the best possible chance of recovering, for, we all deserve a life free from an eating disorder. We all deserve recovery.

Cheers to that


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