There is a lot of misinformation out there about eating disorders, such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder, among others. This is common when a serious mental health disorder is reduced to tabloid fodder involving celebrities. In reality, eating disorders are some of the most lethal mental health disorders in existence, and are notoriously difficult to treat. In order to demystify eating disorders, here in some information you should know, especially if you have a loved one struggling with anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder.
Eating disorders don’t discriminate based on economic status, race, or gender. While certain demographics are statistically more likely to develop certain eating disorders, they can affect anyone. Part of the issue is a lack of recognition about many disordered eating patterns. While conditions like anorexia nervosa are associated in most people’s minds with being caucasian, female, and socioeconomically privileged, that is not an accurate depiction of the full population that actually has the disorder.
People often assume eating disorders are tied to a certain body shape or size. Eating disorders are a mental illness with physical effects. It’s often impossible to look at someone and tell if they are suffering from one. Overweight individuals may have anorexia, and someone with an average body size may have bulimia, and a thin person may have binge eating disorder. Assuming someone doesn’t or can’t have an eating disorder based on how they look is just inaccurate.
It’s a common misconception that eating disorders are choices. While there may some initial choice, much like with substance abuse addiction, it’s a disease that people have no control over. It’s not a diet or a lifestyle; it’s an illness that doesn’t disappear just because an individual wants it to.
The big thing people need to understand is that eating disorders are not about food. On the surface, it might be about what you are eating or how much you’re exercising. But it’s the underlying issues of control and self-worth that drive eating disorders. It is not uncommon for someone to develop a disorder like anorexia or binge eating disorder in response to feeling out-of-control in life, like after experiencing trauma.
Most people know about anorexia or bulimia, but there are actually more eating disorders than that. These are just the most well known, because they are ones most commonly depicted in media. Other disorders, like binge eating disorder, are not as well known, but are just as serious.
Secrecy and isolation help eating disorders thrive, and this causes other mental illnesses to develop and thrive. Many people who have eating disorders also suffer from depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and self-harm. Eating disorders also have a high co-morbidity with certain mental health disorders, such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disoder (PTSD) or Borderline Personality Disorder.
People often see people with eating disorders are “attention seekers”. The reality is that most people who have them want to disappear rather than be noticed. They want to hide their eating disorder and fade away. Being in the spotlight is actually the last thing they want.
Parents and teachers often make the mistake of dismissing eating disorder warning signs, or labeling these behaviors as a “phase”. People do not grow out of eating disorders. They only get worse over time. It’s important to catch eating disorders early on so don’t be dismissive of what someone is going through.
Eating disorders might not seem as heavy or dark as depression, PTSD, or suicidal behaviors but they are deadly. In fact, anorexia is actually the most deadly mental illness there is. Eating disorders are life-threatening illnesses so they need to be taken seriously.
When you have an eating disorder it consumes your life. One cannot “forget about it” or “move past it”. It takes over your entire life. Many people feel totally controlled by them.
Eating disorders are a serious mental illness that are deeply shrouded in shame, stigma, and misconceptions. They’re extremely dangerous and should be acted on as soon as possible. If you or someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder please contact us to start getting help today.