In the U.S., 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from a clinical eating disorder at some point in their life. These conditions include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, or other specified feeding or eating disorder (OSFED), The National Eating Disorder Association reported.

A new study published in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry has found that around two thirds of women with anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa will eventually recover.

Read: Anorexia And Bulimia: Brains Of People With Eating Disorders Communicate Backward

Researchers analyzed 246 participants for more than 20 years after they’d entered this observational study between 1987 and 1991, Medical XPress reported. Of all 136 met criteria for anorexia and 110 for bulimia when the research began.

Participants were interviewed every 6 to 12 months over the first decade, and then they were contacted for follow-up between 20 and 25 years after study outset.

"These findings challenge the notion that eating disorders are a life sentence," said Kamryn Eddy, PhD, corresponding author of the study, according to Medical XPress. "While the road to recovery is often long and winding, most people will ultimately get better. I've had patients say to me, 'Food and my body are only parts of who I am now; neither defines me anymore,' or 'My life became more full, and there just wasn't room on my plate anymore for the eating disorder.'"

According to the National Institute for Mental Health, eating disorders are caused by a complex interaction of genetic, biological, behavioral, psychological, and social factors. Symptoms include extremely restricted eating, emaciation, distorted body image, and intense fear of gaining weight.

Treatment generally focuses on psychological counseling including individual, group or family therapy, says the NIMH. Eating disorders also respond to nutritional counseling and antidepressant medication.

Source: Eddy KT, Tabri N, Thomas JJ, Murray HB, Hastings E, Edkins K, Krishna M, et al. Recovery From Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa at 22-Year Follow-Up. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 2016.

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