Despite the fact that 50% of people know someone with an eating disorder or have been personally affected by one there are tons of myths and misconceptions out there about them. These falsehoods not only reinforce the stigma, but they make it difficult to identify the problem and get these individuals help. Below are some of the most common myths about eating disorders.
Fact: While women do have a higher rate of developing eating disorders, men aren’t immune. At least 1 out of every 10 people with an eating disorder is male. Women have a much higher rate for eating disorders like bulimia or anorexia but other diagnoses like Binge Eating Disorder men make up at least 40% of those affected. Men are also the group seeing the fastest rise in eating disorders in the past few years. You shouldn’t overlook screening and signs in people just because of their gender.
Fact: People with eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes. When people say eating disorder our minds jump to the thin, frail bodies of anorexia first since that is what is most often portrayed in media. Often, eating disorders don’t result in such drastic changes. Some eating disorders, like bulimia or binge eating disorder, can result in people being average or even overweight. Even fit athletes can struggle with eating disorders. You can’t define an eating disorder based on a person’s weight, it’s a mental struggle that isn’t always visible to the eye.
Fact: People who suffer from eating disorders will tell you that one of the defining things they feel is out of control. While it may start out as a choice, although it’s usually not a conscious one, things can quickly spin out of control. An eating disorder is not a lifestyle choice or a diet gone too far. Eating disorders develop due to genetics, trauma, or other psychological issues. Individuals who suffer from these disorders didn’t choose this any more than people who have anxiety or bipolar disorder did.
Fact: Because eating disorders affect young females the most, people often equate it with other teenager behavior. But unlike dying one’s hair a strange color, eating disorders aren’t a phase that people will grow out of. Not receiving help, especially early on, can result in serious consequences, even death.
Fact: Part of the reason it’s so hard to get help for people with eating disorders is that they go to great lengths to hide their behavior. People with anorexia will wear baggy clothing. People with bulimia will hide their binging and purging sessions. People with binge eating disorder will lie about their food consumption. These individuals aren’t seeking attention; in fact, they’re actively shying away from it.
Fact: The startling truth is that eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. Food is how the body runs, so when this is imbalanced physical health really suffers. Without treatment, nearly 20% of individuals die as a result of their illness. Even when the disorders aren’t fatal, there are other severe medical complications such as cardiac complications, gastrointestinal distress, infertility, and bone disease.
Fact: This is a deeply rooted historical myth. In the past, parents were heavily blamed for their children developing eating disorders. They were treated as a problem rather than a solution and resource. There is no evidence that certain parenting styles are a direct cause of eating disorders. There is, however, a genetic basis for them. Children born to parents who suffered from eating disorders are more likely to develop them. It is genetics that plays a role, not behavior or environmental factors. This is very similar to other illnesses both mental and physical. Parent’s shouldn’t be blamed or feel guilty. They should be involved in the recovery and make themselves a pillar of support.
Fact: Recovery from eating disorders is certainly challenging, but it is entirely possible. It won’t happen overnight, it might take months or years, but with proper treatment, individuals can go on to live a healthy life, free from their eating disorder. It’s important to get help with eating disorder treatment as possible to limit the consequences.
Contact us if you or someone you love is suffering from an eating disorder. Recovery and help are completely possible. Eating disorders affect people of all genders, races, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Getting help is encouraged and important.