6 Eating Disorder Myths
Updated: Mar 8, 2021
There are a lot of misconceptions about eating disorders that can be harmful to the safety and recovery of those who are struggling. Take a look at some common myths below.
A lot of people misunderstand eating disorders and how they manifest. Due to these myths or misunderstandings people who have eating disorders are often ashamed or scared to share their diagnosis. It also makes it more difficult for people who may have an eating disorder to reach out for support.
Myth #1: Eating Disorders are a Choice
Someone does not wake up and choose to have an eating disorder. Like other disorders, they are a complex mental illness that is not caused by choice. Research has shown that eating disorders are caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors in a person's life. For example, a biological factor may be that eating disorders run in the family making you more vulnerable to also developing one. An example of an environmental factor would be the media and its portrayal of the unrealistic ideal body.
Myth #2: Everyone Has An Eating Disorder These Days
Although our culture is very obsessed with what people eat and how much they weigh, the characteristics of an eating disorder are more harmful and complex. Many people who engage in disordered eating patterns do not meet the criteria of an eating disorder, but may experience adverse effects and could benefit from early intervention.
Myth #3: It’s Not A Big Deal
Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. Twenty percent of people diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa will die due to their illness. This is due to bingeing, purging, putting your body into starvation mode, over-exercising, and developing co-occurring disorders like anxiety and depression.
Myth #4: Anorexia is the Only Serious Eating Disorder
All eating disorders are serious mental illnesses that need proper treatment. Research has shown that people with bulimia had very similar mortality rates seen in anorexia. Research also mentions that roughly 1 in 20 people with an eating disorder die due to their illness.
Myth #5: Boys Don't Have Eating Disorders
Eating disorders can effect anyone, regardless of their age or sex. Although eating disorders are more common in females, research has found growing numbers in male eating disorders. Studies show that 1/3 of all eating disorders sufferers are male. Often male sufferers are scared to reach out due to the stigma around males and eating disorders.
Myth #6: They Don't Look Sick
Having an eating disorder does not mean someone will be underweight. This myth can be due to the portrayal of eating disorders in the media as being extremely thin. It is important to note that you cannot tell someone has an eating disorder simply by looking at them. This idea that you need to be emaciated to prove you are sick leaves a lot of individuals hesitant to get treatment due to not feeling “sick enough”. It is crucial to remember that people can suffer from a severe eating disorder at any weight.
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