A new study suggests that people with eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia can recover. The study analyzed data from 246 female participants with these eating disorders and it concluded that two-thirds of these women could get better over time.

About 20 million women and 10 million men live with an eating disorder in the United States. About 4 to 5 percent of these people die from anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. However, overcoming these problems, though it is hard, is also very possible, according to a new study led by Kamryn Eddy, who is the co-director of the Eating Disorders Clinical and Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

“People with anorexia nervosa may see themselves as overweight, even when they are dangerously underweight,” said the National Institute of Mental health. Image credit: Teen Skepchick.

Recovering from anorexia and bulimia can take about 10 years

Eating disorders are an increasing concern in our society. About 20 million women are suffering from anorexia or bulimia in the U.S. Though patients with eating disorders are considered to be unrecoverable, a new study shows that they have more chances to overcome it than they think.

Previous research had stated that only half of the people with anorexia or bulimia could recover, but according to Kamr two-thirds of the patients can let the eating disorder behind. However, this still means that one out of three people would die from anorexia or bulimia. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, about 4 to 5 percent of the patients die.

“People with bulimia nervosa have recurrent and frequent episodes of eating unusually large amounts of food and feeling a lack of control over these episodes,” said the National Institute of Mental Health. Image credit: Discovery Women.

Anorexia is characterized by self-starvation and an obsession regarding weight loss, while bulimia is characterized by frequent cycles of binge-eating and purging.

According to Dr. Eddie, it takes about 10 years to fully recover from eating disorders. She highlighted that anorexia is more difficult to overcome than bulimia. As well, it has a lot to do with the patient’s condition and willingness.

Participants received all type of treatment

To get to these results, researchers recruited 246 women with eating disorders. They were all treated in the Boston area from 1987 to 1991. 110 of the participants had bulimia while the rest had anorexia. 95 percent of them were white and they had an average age of 20 when the study started. Out of the 246, 176 agreed to participate in the follow-up over 20 years. 18 died and 15 were unreachable.

Out of the participants who completed the period of study, 68 percent of the patients with bulimia managed to recover, and so did 63 percent of the women with anorexia. Two-thirds of women with bulimia recovered on an average period of 9 years.

According to Dr. Eddie, recovering from bulimia tends to be easier than recovering from anorexia. She said that if patients don’t recover from bulimia in 10 years, it is not likely that they will. On the other hand, only 31 percent of the anorexic women under study recovered in 9 years.

They defined recovery as going without symptoms for more than a year. It is not clear what the most effective treatment was for those women. The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

“Participants received all types of treatment, including outpatient individual, family, and group therapy, inpatient and residential treatment, nutritional counseling, medications and medical care,” Eddy said.

Source: US News