The Lethality of Anorexia Nervosa

By, Dr. Mark Warren

Sadly, we want to return this week to a topic we have blogged on before, the lethality of eating disorders, in particular anorexia. We know the outset that current data suggests that all eating disorders are lethal and that none should be seen as less serious than any other. The statistics are staggering, as many as 20% of those suffering from anorexia will die from the illness or suicide. The death last week of Isabelle Caro, who featured prominently in an anorexia awareness campaign, comes as a stark reminder of the seriousness of eating disorders and of the absolute necessity to get the best possible care. It also equally highlights that even with progressive care these illnesses may prove fatal. As we think about the sadness of Ms. Caro’s life and the illness that consumed her we also want to reflect on what this means for all of us as professionals, individuals who suffer from eating disorders, family members, and friends.

For individuals, families, and friends, it has to underscore how very hard these illnesses can make one’s life and how important the struggle is to keep trying to get better. Our notions of what is healthy, what is okay, what we can do to help ourselves and to help others, must be constantly open and moving forward. We must always look to see if there is something more we can do, even if we are trying as hard as we possible can.

For professionals, we see that even at the best of our knowledge, at the best of our awareness, at the best of our understanding and practice, we still do not have anything close to all the answers. Even when a treatment is 50%, 60%, or even 80% effective it means there will be a large number of people who suffer and who are not moving into recovery. We are challenged to continually ask ourselves if our assumptions are right, if our treatments are enough, and if there is more we could be doing. Anyone who suffers from an eating disorder deserves the absolute best care that exists and all of us in the field need to work harder to come up with better and more effective treatment, so that there will be less suffering and fewer deaths.

For more information about anorexia nervosa, click here.

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Contributions by Sarah Emerman