Common Myths About Eating Disorders

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Contributor: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC, Special Projects Coordinator at Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope

While there has been much progress in the arena of eating disorder awareness, much work remains to be completed, particularly as stigmas and myths continue to surround these fatal psychiatric illnesses. Largely in part to misconceptions created in the media and society combined with lack of education, many people may not understand all that is involved when it comes to developing and having an eating disorder.

Understanding some of the common myths associated with eating disorders as well as learning the realities about these diseases can help increase awareness, understanding, and break the shame for the countless of individuals who are suffering.

Common Myths About Eating Disorders

Some of the common misbeliefs associated with eating disorders are as follows:

  • Eating disorders are a choice: Individuals who have eating disorders do not choose these diseases anymore than a person would choose to have cancer or heart disease. Eating disorders are strongly influenced by biological factors that are not of a person’s choosing, such as genetics and neurobiology. Eating disorders develop from a complexity of factors that interplay, not simply out of someone’s choosing.
  • Eating disorders stem from vanity or selfishness: On the surface level, it may seem that eating disorders arise from a desire to lose weight or fit into a certain jean size, but this could not be farther from the truth. Eating disorders are severe psychiatric illnesses and go far beyond food and weight control.
  • Eating disorders can be cured by gaining weight and/or eating more: Because eating disorders are caused by a complexity of factors, treatment itself must be comprehensive. Treatment will often involve work with a physician, psychiatrist, dietitian, therapist/counselor, and typically progresses based on the severity of the disease. Like other complex disease states, treatment must address the many different issues that arise during recovery and often integrate family members, relationships, and more.
  • Eating disorders are caused by the media: The reality is that there is no one root cause associated with eating disorder development. Rather, research has identified several possible factors that can increase a person’s susceptibility to developing one of these diseases, such as anorexia or bulimia nervosa, or binge eating disorder. Research on eating disorders has helped recognize that both biological and environmental factors interplay to influence the progression of an eating disorder.

Effectively Challenging Myths About Eating Disorders

Man in hat smiling challenging the status quo.Unfortunately, these are not the only myths associated with eating disorders, and the plethora of information available at our fingertips often misconstrues the severity of these diseases. Eating disorders are deadly illnesses and can be fatal if left ignored or untreated.

Many individuals who suffer with these diseases often do so in silence due to the shame they may be experiencing. This can keep a sufferer isolated from the help that is desperately needed for recovery and healing.

Myths about eating disorders are effectively challenged through a variety of ways, including advocacy work, research efforts, positive uses of social media, and simply raising awareness. The more these diseases are openly discussed and talked about, the more people can begin to understand the realities involved with these illnesses. Normalizing the conversation around eating disorders can help break the walls of silence and shame for countless individuals.

Improving the Horizon For Eating Disorder Sufferers

Woman Standing by bridge thinking.Ultimately, identifying and challenging the myths that surround eating disorders are steps towards helping eating disorder sufferers and improving overall prognosis for recovery. Breaking shame and stigmas begins with speaking out and voicing truths, effectively relieving much of the pain and isolation that enshrouds eating disorder suffers.

If you are interested in learning more about how to become involved with eating disorder advocacy, consider becoming involved with a non-profit organization that supports eating disorder sufferers and their loved ones.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

What do you think are some other common myths believed about eating disorders? What are practical ways to challenge myths believed about eating disorders?

Crystal Headshot 2About the Author: Crystal is a Masters-level Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a specialty focus in eating disorders, maternal/child health and wellness, and intuitive eating. Combining clinical experience with a love of social media and writing, Crystal serves as the Special Projects Coordinator for Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope, where her passion to help others find recovery and healing is integrated into each part of her work.

As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Crystal has dedicated her career to helping others establish a healthy relationship with food and body through her work with EDH/AH and nutrition private practice.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on May 3, 2016
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About Baxter Ekern

Baxter is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He is responsible for the operations of Eating Disorder Hope and ensuring that the website is functioning smoothly.