There are so many misconceptions about eating disorders. These myths make it difficult for individuals struggling with eating disorders to seek help. These myths can also make it difficult to diagnosis eating disorders when they are not ‘stereotypical’. It’s important that we continue to educate ourselves on eating disorders and build awareness to dissipate these myths. I will continue to share myths that I come across that confuse the public on eating disorders (aka ED).
Myth 1: Only teenage girls and young women are affected by eating disorders.
Fact: Men and women of all ages are affected by ED. Eating disorders can be found in young children to adults. At least 1 out of every 10 individuals struggling with an eating disorder is male. With Binge Eating Disorders, men actually represent 40% of those affected.
Myth 2: You can tell if someone has an eating disorder by looking at their physical appearance.
Fact: It is impossible to tell if someone is struggling with an eating disorder just by looking at them. Individuals struggling with eating disorders vary from being underweight to being overweight. The public and the media tend to focus on individuals diagnosed with anorexia who are severely emaciated. Realistically, many individuals struggling with anorexia might not be significantly underweight. On another note, individuals struggling with other eating disorders such as binge eating or bulimia might be of normal weight or even overweight. We cannot view someone’s health by his or her weight or whether or not he or she is struggling with an eating disorder.
Myth 3: You have to be underweight to have an eating disorder.
Fact: Individuals struggling with ED vary from being underweight to being overweight. You cannot diagnose a person by their weight whether they have an eating disorder or not.
Myth 4: Individuals struggling with eating disorders are only of high socioeconomic status.
Fact: Eating disorders have been diagnosed across all socioeconomic groups, age groups, both sexes, and throughout the world. (Source: NEDA)
Myth 5: Eating disorders are not serious or very dangerous.
Fact: Eating disorders cause serious physical and emotional damage. They can be life-threatening and cause a great deal of health issues such as heart disease, infertility, or even kidney damage. They can even lead to death if untreated.
Myth 6: Eating disorders are a personal choice and someone can stop having one at any time.
Fact: No one truly chooses to have ED. However, a diet or plan to get “healthy” can transform into an eating disorder. Eating disorders are serious illnesses with life-threatening consequences causing severe pain and suffering. What starts as a way of gaining control in one’s life can spiral into out-of-control behavior. Eating disorders are not a choice, but recovery is a choice. Recovery is a lot hard work and involves a lot more than just choosing to not act on symptoms. An eating disorder is a coping mechanism that is used to deal with past issues, extreme emotions, or life changing events. In order for someone to recover from an eating disorder, they need treatment, support, nutritional guidance, and to be taught other healthy coping mechanisms to deal with stress.
Myth 7: A person suffering from an eating disorder is vain.
Fact: People struggling with eating disorders are using it as a coping mechanism to deal with past issues and uncomfortable feelings.
Myth 8: Altered images in the media cause eating disorders.
Fact: While photo-shopped images can impact an individual’s body image and increase the pressure to be thin, they are not the root cause to an eating disorder. Society’s messages about weight and beauty are harmful and can create insecurities for sure, but they alone cannot cause an eating disorder in a individual. Eating disorders have been found to have genetic, psychological, and biological foundations.