There are a lot of common misconceptions about eating disorders – the social acceptance of these myths can lead to harmful effects for those suffering from an eating disorder. Debunking some of these myths is necessary in creating an environment in which those suffering from an eating disorder are able to seek the treatment they need without the stigma created by these harmful misconceptions.
Myth: Eating disorders are a choice
Truth: Eating disorders are not a choice; rather, they are serious medical and psychiatric illnesses influenced by genetic, biological, environmental, and social factors.
Myth: Parents cause eating disorders
Truth: Eating disorders are not directly caused by an individual’s parents. However, eating disorders have been proven to have significant biological causes. Including parents in the course of treatment improves the rate at which individuals recover from an eating disorder.
Myth: Everyone has an eating disorder these days
Truth: Obsessions with food, weight, and disordered eating patterns are very common; however, clinical eating disorders are significantly less common.
Myth: Eating disorders are not that serious
Truth: Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness. Risk of suicide is also common in individuals who have an eating disorder. Other potential health consequences include heart attack, kidney failure, osteoporosis, and electrolyte imbalance.
Myth: Eating disorders affect only females
Truth: Eating disorders can affect anyone, regardless of sex or gender. Although women have generally been affected by eating disorders to a greater extent than men, researchers are becoming more aware of the ways in which these disorders affect men and non-binary individuals.
Myth: Eating disorders only affect people of certain ages
Truth: An eating disorder can emerge at any age. Although most individuals are diagnosed during adolescence and young adulthood, there is evidence that suggests that individuals are being diagnosed at younger ages.
Myth: Recovery from an eating disorder takes a long time
Truth: Rates of recovery vary from person to person. Although not everyone will fully recover from an eating disorder, many improve with treatment. Even individuals who have recovered from an eating disorder may make efforts to ensure that they stay well; these efforts may include meal planning, medication, and regularly checking in with a therapist, dietitian, or doctor.