NEDA Week: Debunking Myths about Eating Disorders

MYTH: Eating Disorders Aren’t That Serious

FACT: “What is the most fatal mental disorder? The answer, which may surprise you, is anorexia nervosa. It has an estimated mortality rate of around 10 percent.  What is the cause of this high rate of mortality? The answer is complicated. While many young women and men with this disorder die from starvation and metabolic collapse, others die of suicide, which is much more common in women with anorexia than most other mental disorders.”

“Bulimia had a 3.9% mortality rate and EDNOS had a 5.2% mortality ….  These numbers were based on a study of individuals seeking outpatient services.  Without treatment, it’s suspected that as many as 20% individuals will die as a result of their illness. Even for patients whose eating disorders don’t prove fatal, there are often severe medical complications associated with starvation and purging, including bone disease, cardiac complications, gastrointestinal distress, and infertility.”



MYTH: Exercise Is Always Good for You

FACT:  “Those who struggle with an eating disorder have an increased likelihood of dealing with excessive exercising. The doubling effects of these destructive disorders can be deadly and include heart difficulties, reproductive complications, and stress fractures. While part of creating a healthy lifestyle includes engagement in moderate activity, exercise does not have to be extreme to be beneficial. Choosing moderation over extreme forms of activity can make all the difference.”


MYTH: Only females have eating disorders

FACT: “At least 1 out of every 10 people with an eating disorder is male. In fact, within certain diagnostic categories like Binge Eating Disorder, men represent as many as 40% of those affected. In a recently released report from the American Academy of Pediatrics, boys and men were cited as one of the groups seeing the fastest rise in eating disorders over the past 10 years along with 8-12 year olds and ethnic minorities.  It’s equally important to screen for eating disorders among females and males.”


MYTH: You Can Tell By Looking at Someone If They Have an Eating Disorder

FACT: “Individuals with eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes. Many times, the media and other public discussions about eating disorders focus solely on individuals with a diagnosis of anorexia who are severely emaciated.  In reality, many individuals with anorexia may not ever appear so drastically underweight.  Furthermore, many individuals with severe disorders including bulimia, binge eating, and EDNOS [OSFED] can be underweight, normal weight, overweight or obese and often fluctuate in weight. Even athletes who appear to be incredibly fit might be struggling with an eating disorder. The bottom line is that you cannot define someone’s health by how much they weigh and you cannot determine whether they have an eating disorder just by looking at them.”



MYTH: Someone with An Eating Disorder Just Needs to Eat to Get Better; It’s All about Food.

FACT: “Eating disorders are serious illnesses with mental and physical consequences that often involve a great deal of suffering.  Someone can make the choice to pursue recovery, but the act of recovery itself is a lot of hard work and involves more than simply deciding to not act on symptoms. In most cases, the eating disorder has become a person’s primary way of coping with intense emotions and difficult life events.  In order to heal from the eating disorder, a person needs appropriate treatment and support regarding medical monitoring, nutritional rehabilitation as well as learning and practicing healthier ways to manage stress.”



MYTH: Only Middle-class Caucasian Americans Have Eating Disorders

FACT: “Although eating disorders tend to affect white adolescent and young adult females, these conditions cross all boundaries—gender, racial, ethnic, cultural, geographic and socioeconomic—no group is immune.  In fact, males or individuals from minority groups may not be identified as having an eating disorder by health care providers because of the this misconception.”



MYTH: Recovery from Eating Disorders Isn’t Possible

FACT: “Recovery, though challenging, is absolutely possible.  Recovery can take months or years, but with treatment, many people do eventually recover and go on to live a life free from their eating disorder.”

Image Source: postsecret

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