Mortality Rates for Anorexia Remain Unchanged in 2014

By John Lavitt 07/29/14

Eating disorders like anorexia nervosa remain a potent, but silent killer for young women.

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The mortality rates and negative health statistics for anorexia nervosa presented by the National Institute For Mental Health and other expert sources are mind-numbingly bad and still have not improved in 2014, as compared to previous years.

According to the NIMH, the anorexia mortality rate is 12 times higher than any other cause of death in women ages 15 to 24. People with anorexia nervosa are 18 times more likely to die early compared with people of similar age in the general population. Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders, Inc. has said that without treatment up to 20% of people diagnosed with anorexia nervosa die from the physical havoc caused by this mental disorder.

After seeing so many innocents lost to the storm of this devastating illness, Robyn L. Goldberg, RDN, CEDRD, expressed her frustration to The Fix. "As a certified eating disorder registered dietitian on the front lines of the anorexia battle, it is so difficult to watch these lovely young women who have their whole lives in front of them literally destroying themselves because of this powerful and pernicious eating disorder,” Goldberg said.

Anorexia nervosa is characterized by emaciation, an unrelenting pursuit of thinness and an unwillingness to maintain a healthy weight. Brought on by a profound body dysmorphia amped by an intense fear of gaining weight, some patients simply stop eating or reduce their food intake to miniscule amounts, leading to self-starvation. Many sufferers shed weight by the combination of exercising excessively and extreme dieting while others lose body mass by self-induced vomiting, or misusing laxatives, diuretics, and enemas.

Statistics from 2014 show that between 1 to 5% of all female adolescents and young women are anorexic, with the average age of onset being 17 years old. Kaaren Lynn Ray, Director of the mentored youth program SIPPP!, expressed the devastating impact across the globe when she said, “The combinations of factors impacting people with eating disorders in the American population (numbering 14 million affected people) and the worldwide population (affecting 70 million) are staggering…Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.”

If left untreated, anorexia can lead to abnormally low heart rate and blood pressure, osteoporosis, and severe dehydration. Heart damage, which ultimately killed singer Karen Carpenter, is the most common cause of death for people with anorexia. "The cardiac tolls are acute and significant, and set in quickly," said Dr. Diane Mickley, co-president of the National Eating Disorders Association.

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Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.