Though many have never heard of the condition, rumination disorder statistics and facts point to the diagnosis being more common than previously believed.

Rumination is a term frequently used in mental health to describe stressful, repetitive thought patterns, but the diagnosis of rumination disorder is something completely different. Like bulimia and anorexia, rumination disorder is an eating disorder involves feeding and eating. The condition marked by the repeated regurgitation of food may not be well-known, but it affects many. Understanding facts about rumination disorder and learning more about rumination disorder statistics can help put the diagnosis in perspective.

Prevalence and Frequency of Rumination Syndrome

How common is rumination disorder? Determining rumination syndrome prevalence is somewhat difficult. Experts find that rates of rumination disorder are increasing, but they cannot say if the number of cases is going up or if doctors are reporting it more often as they become aware of the condition.

To this point, researchers have not conducted the type of large-scale, systematic study needed to find a consistent and reliable prevalence of rumination disorder. Instead, there has been a series of small studies completed to assess the rates of rumination disorder in the United States and around the world.

One of the most extensive studies surveyed more than 2,000 children between the ages of 10 and 16 regarding their rumination behaviors and found that:

  • About 5% of boys and girls reported rumination disorder symptoms
  • More than 8% of those with rumination disorder reported daily symptoms, with about 63% reporting monthly symptoms
  • About 74% stated that they re-swallowed their food, while the reminder spat it out
  • Nearly 95% of symptoms occur within an hour after the eating

The most common effects of rumination were:

  • Stomach pain, reported by 19%
  • Bloating, reported by 17%
  • Weight loss, reported by about 12%

In the study, rumination peaked in boys at age 14 while symptoms spiked in girls at age 16. Overall, the rates were relatively consistent between age and sex.

Rumination Syndrome in Children

One would likely see rumination disorder in children. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), rumination syndrome in children may begin between 3–12 months old.

Children with intellectual disabilities typically show the first symptoms of rumination at age 6 with symptoms that are long-lasting or episodic. If the condition continues, it may result in severe malnutrition.

Rumination Disorder in Adults

Currently, there is little data available about the prevalence of rumination disorder in adults. However, experts do know that rates of rumination may be as high as 10% in people with intellectual disabilities who live in institutions.

It is possible that some doctors diagnose people with gastrointestinal issues like acid reflux instead of rumination disorder. This misdiagnosis could mean that rates of rumination syndrome in adults than currently reported.

Rumination Syndrome and Co-Occurring Disorders

There are limited relationships between rumination disorder and co-occurring disorders. Currently, the DSM-5 only lists connections between rumination syndrome and anxiety disorders and rumination and intellectual disabilities.

Rumination and bulimia are not linked, though. While both conditions do share the symptom of regurgitating food, bulimia is an intentional act driven by a distorted relationship with food and body image. On the other hand, rumination syndrome is not a purposeful process.

Rumination Disorder Mortality Rate

The rumination syndrome mortality rates are shocking. Rumination is the direct cause of death in between 5–10% of people with the condition. It seems being institutionalized leads to a poorer rumination disorder prognosis. The rates of the condition are higher in institutionalized infants and older adults with morality at between 12–50%.

Statistics on Rumination Disorder Treatment

Depending on the severity of symptoms, rumination disorder treatment can be effective. Since the condition is behavioral, various behavioral modification strategies may be helpful, including:

  • Special feed interventions
  • Self-hypnosis
  • Guided imagery
  • Biofeedback
  • Stress management
  • Diaphragmatic breathing

Rumination disorder data is lacking in general, and there are limited statistics on rumination disorder treatment.

To manage the symptoms and stress of rumination disorder, some people may use alcohol or other drugs in an attempt to self-medicate, which only intensifies symptoms. If you or someone you care about is using substances and ruminating, they may need the professional treatments The Recovery Village provides. When you call The Recovery Village, you will be connected to a representative who can help start the recovery process. Reach out today for more information.

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Editor – Megan Hull
Megan Hull is a content specialist who edits, writes and ideates content to help people find recovery. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Eric Patterson, LPC
Eric Patterson is a licensed professional counselor in the Pittsburgh area who is dedicated to helping children, adults, and families meet their treatment goals. Read more

American Psychiatric Association. “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Fifth Edition.” 2013.

Ellis, Cynthia R. “Rumination.” Medscape, February 17, 2015. Accessed May 2, 2019.

Rajindrajith, Shaman, Devanarayana, Niranga M., Perera, Bonaventure J. “Rumination Syndrome in Children and Adol[…]e and Symptomatology.” BMC Gastroenterology, November 16, 2012. Accessed May 2, 2019.

Talley, Nicholas, J. “Rumination Syndrome.” Gastroenterology & Hepatology, February 2011. Accessed May 2, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.