“It’s a Choice” – Common Misconceptions of Eating Disorders

February is the awareness month for eating disorders. The American Psychiatric Association has classified five different types of eating disorders: anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, avoidant restrictive food intake disorder, and other specified feeding or eating disorder. Eating disorders are complex conditions that can originate from a combination of different biological, emotional, interpersonal, behavioral, and societal factors. These different factors together can initiate a self-perpetuating cycle of physical and psychological harm.

Untangled eating disorder image of forks leaning against wall

Sometimes eating disorders can be seen as puzzling and confusing illnesses to comprehend with many misconceptions relating to them. This can make it difficult for some people to fully understand an eating disorder diagnosis or the nature of the illness. To help understand the complexity of the illness, here are some of the common misconceptions and myths explained.

“Eating disorders are a choice.” Eating disorder is never chosen by the person with a diagnosis. Additionally, it is never a cause of the parent either. The cause of an eating disorder is often more complex and usually caused by both genetic and environmental factors. An environmental factor or a trigger can include physical illnesses, a past of bullying, or other life stressors.

“There’s always a clear reason why someone has an eating disorder.” While some people can point out an event that they believe led to their eating disorder, plenty of people with eating disorders don’t have a specific cause they can pinpoint. Moreover, there isn’t evidence that uncovering the cause of an eating disorder is correlated with recovery. Regardless of the possible causes of an eating disorder, regaining normal eating and weight are typically the priorities of the usual treatment.

Untangled eating disorders people having coffee

“As long as someone isn’t emaciated, they are not that sick.” Against the common belief: most people with an eating disorder are not underweight. Despite the media’s tendency to portray people with eating disorders as thin, you can’t tell if someone has an eating disorder merely based on their looks. These portrayals can worsen the problem by making eating disorder patients pressured to worry if they seem “ill enough” or “good enough” to warrant treatment. Thus, at any weight, a person can experience a serious eating disorder.

“The main eating disorder symptom to worry about is weight loss.” Even though weight loss often characterizes restrictive eating disorders like anorexia nervosa, many people with eating disorders don’t lose weight and may even gain weight as a result of their illness.

“Eating disorder behaviors only focus on food.” Although people with eating disorders typically place an inappropriate amount of emphasis on food and weight, eating disorders can also manifest in a variety of other ways. Numerous research studies have demonstrated connections between eating disorders, perfectionism, and obsessionality, which can result in a preoccupation with things like academic success or athletic accomplishments.

Untangled psychology eatining disorders, cutlery on a plate

“Eating disorders are only a “girl thing.” ” Regardless of gender or sex, anyone can develop an eating disorder. Even though eating disorders are more common in females, for the past years there have been a rising number of males who are seeking help for eating disorders.

“Anorexia is the only serious eating disorder.” The serious risk of multiple different eating disorders has been shown in various studies. The risk of sudden mortality from heart attacks is much increased in those who misuse laxatives or diuretics or make themselves vomit. Excessive exercise can also increase the risk of death in individuals with eating disorders by increasing the amount of stress on the body.

“Once someone with anorexia gains weight, they will be fine.” The road to anorexia recovery doesn’t stop with weight and nutritional restoration. A person with anorexia is typically able to engage more fully and effectively in therapy once they have regained a healthy weight. Weight recovery alone does not mean the eating disorder is fully cured.

Remember that it’s always important to search and reach out for suitable help in case you suspect yourself or someone else in your life is struggling with an eating disorder. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *