7 Eating Disorder Myths You've Falsely Believed
These need to be debunked ASAP.
Eating disorders affect so many people around the world yet they STILL aren’t talked about openly enough. Understandably, there are loads of misconceptions about eating disorders and it doesn’t help that they’re pretty complex and difficult to understand in the first place.
But we’re here to clear some things up this Eating Disorder Awareness Week – here are 5 MYTHS about eating disorders that need to be debunked.
Myth: You can tell if someone has an eating disorder by looking at them
This is one of the most common misconceptions of eating disorders. You might think that you have to be underweight to be anorexic, or overweight to binge-eat. But people who suffer from anorexia, bulimia, binge eating or OSFED (other specific feeding or eating disorder) can actually be overweight, under-weight, recommended weight, or can fluctuate in weight.
In fact, it can be very triggering for someone with an eating disorder to be told they don’t ‘look’ like they have one.
Myth: Eating disorders are to do with vanity
People do not choose to have an eating disorder and eating disorders are caused by more than just wanting to slim down to fit into a size 10 prom dress. Although many are influenced by societal pressures to be thin, the reason that someone develops an eating disorder is usually more complex. In fact, biological factors play a large part in the reason for the development of an eating disorder – eating disorders often run in families, so someone’s DNA can make them more likely to develop one.
If eating disorders were purely to do with vanity then recovery would be a lot easier. The same way that people do not choose to develop an eating disorder, they can’t choose to stop having one. Recovering from an eating disorder often requires intensive support and help from professionals and loved ones.
Myth: Eating disorders only affect young people
Although eating disorders are most commonly diagnosed between the ages of 12-20, they can affect absolutely anyone, regardless of age or gender.
Eating disorders affect many middle aged, and even elderly, people. In fact, binge eating is actually most common in 30-40-year-olds.
Equally, eating disorders don’t just affect women and girls. 50% of children with anorexia nervosa are boys, though girls are more likely to be affected post-puberty. Also, according to the Body Dysmorphic Disorder Foundation, around 1 in 10 men in your average UK gym could have body dysmorphia that could lead to depression, steroid abuse or suicide. Muscle dysmorphia, or ‘bigorexia’, is a type of body dysmorphia that makes someone feel they are constantly too small and frail, and can very easily turn into an eating disorder.
Myth: Eating disorders are about weight or eating
Often an obsession with food and eating is a symptom of a much deeper psychological illness. Eating disorders often develop due to overwhelming underlying issues that has made someone feel the need to regain control over an aspect of their life. Eating disorders are more about control than they are about food.
Myth: Bulimia is about vomiting
Although vomiting is a key symptom of bulimia, it is not the only symptom. Some people intensely exercise to get rid of calories, some fast, and others use laxatives. Bulimia is characterised by out-of-control overeating followed by obsessively trying to lose weight.
Myth: Diets are completely separate from eating disorders
Diets are everywhere these days, and it leads to a lot of confusion. While most people understand that having an eating disorder is a health risk, people have accepted dieting as a normal part of life, along with body obsession. But diets are not actually very healthy, and they are actually often connected to eating disorders.
In New Zealand and Australia, studies have found that people who diet are SIX TIMES more likely to develop an eating disorder, and severe dieters have an 18-fold risk. They also discovered that among girls who diet, the risk of obesity is greater than for non-dieters.
Myth: Eating disorders are just a cry for help
Although a lot of people assume that those with eating disorders are simply seeking attention, that is mostly not the case at all.
People with eating disorders are often extremely secretive, to the extent that they can end up being very manipulative and constantly lying to those closest to them.
So the bad news is that mental illnesses still carry a certain stigma and aren’t talked about enough, which means a lot of false assumptions are made. Which is bullsh*t, right? Looking after our mental health is just as important as looking after our physical health.
The good news is that this week is Eating Disorder Awareness Week which tackles those issues head on. So spread the knowledge, know your facts, and keep an eye out for your friends and families. Anyone can develop an eating disorder, and the sooner an eating disorder is identified the sooner you can get help the help you need for recovery.
- Emily Abrahams
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