Eating disorder myths are hard to fight since many uninformed doctors, therapists and magazines give out false information. Today we will try to shine some light on the most common myths.
Eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder are often thought to be a form of weakness in the person who develops them rather than legitimate disorders. This is just one of many misconceptions that surround eating disorders.
What are Common Myths about Eating Disorders?
Below are six other commonly held myths about eating disorders and the truths behind them:
Myth 1. Only Women Develop Eating Disorders
While it is true that the majority of people with eating disorders are women, 10 percent of the estimated 8 million people with eating disorders are men. And that number is growing as men are becoming more comfortable admitting to having a problem with disordered eating and seeking treatment.
Myth 2. Once You Have an Eating Disorder, You Will Always Have an Eating Disorder
No eating disorder is permanent, even if you have had it since adolescence. Anorexia, bulimia and overeating disorder can be treated through therapy, outpatient treatment or a residential treatment center for eating disorders. No matter how severe the symptoms of your eating disorder are, the right type of treatment can help you develop a healthy relationship with food. Without any type of treatment, the effects of an eating disorder can be severe.
Myth 3. You Can’t Develop More Than One Eating Disorder
It is possible to develop more than one eating disorder, and at the same time. It is not uncommon for women to participate in behaviors that indicate bulimia and anorexia alternately. While anorexia and bulimia can occur independently of each other, but about half of all anorexics become bulimic.
People who develop symptoms of more than one type of disorder may be classified as having an Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified because they do not fit the exact description of other eating disorders.You cannot tell if someone has an eating disorder by looking at them.
Myth 4. It’s Easy to Spot People Who Have an Eating Disorder
It is assumed that people who have anorexia are stick thin, and that people with other disorders are overweight or obese. But people who have any type of eating disorder may be of a normal weight, and there may be no outward signs that an eating disorder exists. Recognizing an eating disorder may be more about recognizing a change in behaviors, mental state and eating patterns that are symptomatic of the various disorders.
Myth 5. Children and Teens Can’t Develop Eating Disorders
It’s not just adults who develop unhealthy relationships with food. Many times, disordered eating begins in childhood and adolescence, and continues into adulthood. In fact, the average age of onset for anorexia is 17 and bulimia is often diagnosed during the teenage years. Fortunately, there is treatment for teens with eating disorders that can help them to end their unhealthy eating behaviors at an early age so that it doesn’t follow them for the rest of their lives.
Myth 6. Eating Disorders Aren’t Life-Threatening
If left untreated, eating disorders can lead to severe health consequences, and even death. People with eating disorders can experience malnutrition, dehydration, heart problems, diabetes, anemia and liver failure. If you have an eating disorder, you are not making yourself healthier. You are putting yourself and your body at risk and need to seek eating disorder treatment as soon as possible.
Myth 7. “Eating disorders stem from vanity, media and culture.”
False. Eating disorders are TRIGGERED by vanity, media and culture, but it is actually a genetic disease. Much like alcoholism or depression which has been found to be genetic, those with eating disorders have the genetic chemistry to develop an eating disorder more so than others. Whether or not this genetic disease develops into a full blown eating disorder has to do with family dynamics, values and life experience. This is why some people end up in eating disorder treatment and others don’t but say, “I can tell I could definitely develop an eating disorder if I’m not careful. Therefore I have to check in with myself and my emotions before I do or don’t eat a meal.”
Myth 8. “Eating disorders are anorexia and bulimia.”
False. Eating disorders are not only anorexia and bulimia, but are also compulsive overeating and obesity. Compulsive overeating (which causes obesity) is triggered from the same part of the brain that anorexia and bulimia is. As well, many anorexics, bulimics and compulsive overeaters cycle in and out of each disease. This is why Overeaters Anonymous welcomes “all people struggling with food.” Everyone at those meetings has the same thinking and struggles around food.
Myth 9. “90 days of eating disorder treatment and rehab will fix an eating disorder.”
False. Eating disorder treatment and rehab introduce the client to new behaviors, thinking and coping skills in order to manage their eating disorder. Much like an individual with cancer or diabetes, one must always watch their actions, behaviors and diet in order to maintain recovery. Life changes like moving, marriage, children or job changes can trigger a relapse. This is why it is vital that someone in eating disorder recovery has a strong network of other eating disorder survivors and perhaps a therapist to help them cope with big life changes.
Myth 10. “You’re only anorexic if you fall under 90 lbs.”
False. A misconception by many eating disorder sufferers and doctors is that people need to “look” malnourished or weigh in in the “double digits.” Though some may fall into one or both of these categories, anorexia is defined as the “deprivation of food.” Whether or not someone has the bone structure or weight that shows the cookie cutter anorexic depends on their own body. If you know you restrict food or suspect someone does, you need to offer them help and support as soon as possible. One of the deadly things about eating disorders is that they convince the sufferer that they don’t have a disease at all.
Myth 11. “Only young teenage girls develop eating disorders.”
False. It is within the teenage years that people tend to EXPERIMENT more often with eating disorders, but eating disorders affect many demographics and both genders. Women are 10 times more likely to develop an eating disorder than men, however there are more than 1 million men in the USA suffering from eating disorders (and 9 million women.)
Many professional athletes develop eating disorders due to intense workouts and training that cause them to binge and then deprive. Women and men have been known to develop eating disorders at mid life in their 40’s and some develop them as young as 8 years old. If you have the disease and get triggered by your environment your pretty much lined up to take a hit of this disease.
We hope that this blog erased some of the inaccurate information you have been given.