Eating disorders are often misunderstood by parents and teens alike. Many people hold untrue beliefs about eating disorders—who they affect, their dangers and how they are treated. Below are six myths about eating disorders and the truth behind those misconceptions.
Only Teenage Girls Have Eating Disorders
Although it’s true that the peak age range for those with eating disorders is between 12 and 25, with a median range of 18 years, eating disorders can affect people of all ages. Furthermore, males make up approximately 10–15% of people with anorexia or bulimia.
Eating Disorders Aren’t Dangerous
Eating disorders are extremely serious and potentially life-threatening. The mortality rate of people with eating disorders is 12 times higher than the mortality rate of people without eating disorders. Negative side effects are both mental and physical; eating disorders involve psychological distress and can also affect almost every major organ in the body. Long-term health consequences include a high risk of heart failure, osteoporosis, tooth decay and organ failure.
Eating Disorders Are a Phase, Not an Illness
Eating disorders are not a phase, a lifestyle choice or an extreme diet. Although 85% of those who suffered from an eating disorder believe others view them as “attention seeking,” people with eating disorders are ill and cannot just resume normal eating patterns. It’s extremely important that people with eating disorders receive professional help as soon as possible, as the illness does not go away by itself.
Only Underweight People Have an Eating Disorder
People of any weight can have an eating disorder. While people with anorexia are often underweight, those with eating disorders not otherwise specified (EDNOS) and bulimia can often be at an average weight and people with binge-eating disorders can be overweight.
Eating Disorders are Primarily About Food
Eating disorders are rarely just about a desire to lose weight by reducing food intake. Usually, an eating disorder is a symptom of a much deeper problem that has often been repressed. People with eating disorders fixate on counting calories, exercising excessively and losing weight so that they can block out painful emotions or memories. Eating disorders have complex causes, which is why they are so difficult (but not impossible) to treat.
Eating Disorders are Cured When a Normal Weight is Reached
Eating disorders are not just about physical symptoms such as weight—they’re also about mental wellness. Although weight restoration is an important part of the recovery process, a healthy weight alone does not signify full recovery. The problems that caused the eating disorder in the first place must be treated as well so that the person can have a healthy perspective about food, exercise and weight.
Feature image: Micah H.