Eating Disorders: 5 Common Myths


You may have noticed a friend or family member who has dropped a considerable amount of weight or is obsessive about the types of food they are eating. They may seem reclusive and to be continuously pushing food away, bingeing or exercising excessively. These are all common symptoms of eating disorders, however sometimes the warning signs are subtle and easily missed due to a few common misconceptions.

Myth #1: Only women and girls can get an eating disorder. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, 10million men and boys in the United States will develop an eating disorder. Eating disorders affect a diverse array of people of various ethnicities, ages, genders, body weight and socioeconomic groups.

Myth #2: You can always tell someone is suffering with an eating disorder by the way they look. Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder in which a person unreasonably limits food intake to prevent weight gain. Individuals who suffer from this disorder usually appear extremely thin. However, another common eating disorder, bulimia nervosa, uses bingeing and purging to control weight. These individuals may appear to be physically healthy, despite the internal damage being done to their bodies.

Myth #3: External influences, such as peer pressure or social media are the main cause of eating disorders. While it is difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of an eating disorder, research conducted by NIH suggests that a combination of genetic, psychological, behavioral, biological and social factors can heighten the risk.

Myth #4: Eating disorders are a choice. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, eating disorders are not lifestyle choices. People don’t choose to have an eating disorder like they might choose to be a vegetarian or vegan. Eating disorders are a biologically influenced medical illness.

Myth #5: Eating disorders are not really that serious. Some research has shown a direct correlation between eating disorders and suicide attempts. Eating disorders can also cause an imbalance in electrolytes that can result in a stroke or heart attack, intestinal distress, brain damage and multi-organ failure. In fact, anorexia nervosa is currently recognized as being the most fatal psychological disorder. Unfortunately, ifleft untreated, the mortality rate is close to 20 percent.

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