Eating disorders are more common than you think

By Regence
February 28, 2022
counseling session

Recovery is possible through early detection, treatment and support

Updated Feb. 28, 2022

Eating disorders are not uncommon, though their exact cause is not fully understood. Research suggests a combination of genetic, biological, behavioral, psychological and social factors can raise a person’s risk. Only five in 50 people with an eating disorder seek assistance as many people keep it a secret. An estimated 20 million women and 10 million men in the U.S. will have an eating disorder during their lifetime, according to the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA).

Eating disorders can affect anyone

Eating disorders can affect people of all ages, racial/ethnic backgrounds, body weights and genders. Although eating disorders often appear during the teen years or young adulthood, they may also develop during childhood or later in life (40 years and older).

Eating disorders can affect a person’s physical and mental health and, in some cases, they can be life-threatening. With treatment, people can recover.

How to identify signs of an eating disorder

The best chance for recovery is early detection and treatment. Someone struggling with an eating disorder doesn’t always fit into a neat checklist. Some potential warning signs include:

  • Concern with body size and shape
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Withdrawal from friends and activities
  • Uncomfortable eating around others
  • Food rituals like excessive chewing
  • Obsessive-compulsive tendencies
  • Noticeable fluctuations in weight, both up and down
  • Digestion complaints
  • Teeth marks and cuts on the back of hands from purging
  • Unstable nutrient levels detected during routine medical exams

Where to find help

If you or a loved one is experiencing signs of an eating disorder, you may feel unsure of what to do next. One place to start is the NEDA online screening tool, which can help determine if it’s time to seek professional help. NEDA’s helpline can also help you or your loved one find the help they need, Monday through Friday via online chat, calls or text.

Regence members can access a spectrum of behavioral health resources

Levels of care for eating disorder treatment range from peer support, outpatient, partial hospital, residential and inpatient. Therapy options can vary as well and are determined based on the individual’s needs.

“At Regence, we are committed to finding the best and most effective behavioral health care options for our members,” says Andree Miceli, clinical director of behavioral health at Regence. “When eating disorder patients don’t receive enough support in their daily environments, they can struggle. We are currently working to improve access to more care options like in-home care, which provides more support in their everyday life during transitional and ongoing treatment. This treatment option is less costly and more effective for many, especially young people, with an eating disorder.”

Whether you need occasional emotional support or ongoing mental health care, Regence has a variety of programs to prevent, identify and treat mental health and substance use disorders. Regence members who want to understand what is available under their health plan can sign in to their account on, or call us for help finding the right behavioral health resources.