Five Myths About Eating Disorders And Why They Are Wrong

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Despite affecting over 24 million people in the U.S. alone and holding the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, estimates suggest nearly 90% of individuals who have experienced an eating disorder never receive treatment.

Experts believe many people avoid reporting or seeking help for their eating disorder due to social stigmas against the condition and issues with self-shaming, but myths and misunderstandings surrounding the disorders also create significant barriers preventing people from seeking treatment.

These five ideas about eating disorders are widespread and prevent many individuals in need of assistance from seeking help:

Eating Disorders Only Affect Young Girls

Despite the stereotype, eating disorders impact people of all ages, genders, ages, ethnicities and sexual orientations. The misconception is so widespread men are notoriously unlikely to seek help for eating disorders because they are perceived to be “women’s diseases”, despite men making up between 10-15% of people with anorexia or bulimia. Binge eating disorder, the most common eating disorder, affects men and women equally.

You Must Be Underweight To Have An Eating Disorder

While individuals with anorexia nervosa are often underweight when diagnosed, it is not an explicit requirement. The disease is diagnosed based on eating patterns and behaviors and the disorders can begin to form well before extreme weight loss has occurred.

Eating Disorders Are About Food

It is not enough to give someone with anorexia a new diet plan to help them recover. Eating disorders aren’t cured by addressing eating patterns alone. Unless you also work to treat issues with stress, anxiety, and self-perception, you have not addressed the root of the issue.

Anorexia and Bulimia Are The Only Eating Disorders

Anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa get the most attention, but estimates show binge eating disorder is by far the most common. In addition to these disorders, researchers have also identified other eating disorders such as Otherwise Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OFSED.)

You Can “Grow Out” Of An Eating Disorder

Eating disorders are not a phase. They are serious mental health issues that exist alongside other mental health problems more often than not. Because of the wide range of contributing factors and co-morbid illnesses, eating disorders are typically treated by a specialized treatment team made up of doctors from many specialists. While many individuals live through an eating disorder without treatment, the notion that you can “get through” an eating disorder without professional help is a large contributor to the high fatality rate.

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