1. Eating disorders are primarily about food.
“Just eat.” This might be your intuitive response to someone who refuses food — or to someone who’s bingeing, “Just stop eating.” These are among the least helpful comments you can make to someone with an eating disorder. Eating disorders have complex causes and can’t be willed away; they are not a choice and require time and often professional support to overcome.
2. People who are normal or overweight cannot have eating disorders/ You can tell by looking at someone if they have an eating disorder.
It is difficult to predict whether or not someone has an eating disorder because not all eating disorders are determined by the size and weight of a person. An eating disorder is not always easy to detect based on weight
3. You can never exercise too much.
While in some cases exercise can be very beneficial, too much exercise, and not enough calorie absorption in the body, is harmful. Excessive exercise can be very unhealthy causing problems such as dehydration, fatigue, injuries such as shin splints, cartilage damage and stress fractures, Osteoporosis, Amenorrhea, heart problems and Arthritis.
4. Only women can be affected by eating disorders.
Women are not the only ones who can suffer from eating disorders. In fact, the latest information states that conservatively, 1 in 4 cases of eating disorders affect men. This myth has been prevalent for a long time, and can dissuade males from seeking out help. Eating disorders do not discriminate, they are gender inclusive, and by focusing on only females, it can add stress, embarrassment and shame to those who do not identify as female, however, may be struggling.
5. Eating disorders are a disease of vanity/ by choice.
People do not choose to have eating disorders. They develop over time and require appropriate treatment to address the complex medical/psychiatric symptoms and underlying issues. There are several contributing factors that may lead to the emergence of an eating disorder although no defined cause has been established. They include biological, social, psychological and interpersonal factors. In addition, the physical symptoms of an eating disorder can be among the last to develop; often the negative thoughts and self-esteem develop first, and can be present for a long time prior to the physical symptoms.
6. “Healthy” eating and behaviours are never a problem.
When any behaviours become obsessive, and impact the normal day to day functioning of an individual, they become problematic. Orthorexia is described as an “unhealthy obsession with healthy eating”, and individuals become very rigid about their eating habits.
7. Only people of high socioeconomic status get eating disorders.
People in all socioeconomic levels have eating disorders. The disorders have been identified across all socioeconomic groups, age groups, religions, both sexes, and in many countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, and North and South America.
8. Eating disorders only occur in young girls and adolescent females.
Eating disorders do not discriminate between age and gender. 1 in every 4 eating disorders cases are male. Also, the most rapidly growing group of individuals developing eating disorders are women in midlife.
9. Men who suffer from eating disorders tend to be gay.
Sexual orientation has no correlation with developing an eating disorder. This myth alienates males who do not identify as LGBTQ, and can increase feelings of shame and embarrassment through emasculation. In addition, men can struggle with anorexia or bulimia, however, binge eating disorder and muscle dysmorphia, or the need to be “bigger” tends to be more prevalent amongst males, and therefore may not be as easy to identify as problematic and potentially dangerous behaviours.
10. Achieving normal weight means the eating disorder is cured.
Weight recovery is essential to enabling a person with Anorexia to participate meaningfully in further treatment, such as psychological therapy. Recovering to normal weight does not in and of itself signify a cure, because eating disorders are complex medical/psychiatric illnesses.
11. Eating disorders are a “phase”, and a cry for attention.
These are serious psychiatric disorders, that are potentially life-threatening. Individuals who have an eating disorder are not being dramatic, or looking for attention. The misconception that a person will “grow out” of the behaviour is very dangerous, as most people require professional intervention to recover from an eating disorder and learn new, more positive coping mechanisms.
12. One type of eating disorder is more dangerous than another.
Categorizing eating disorders into a “hierarchy” can seriously impact and undermine an individuals journey of recovery. While each type of disorder presents a variety of physical symptoms that range in severity, the negative thoughts and low self-esteem is a commonality experienced by everyone who is struggling.
To let someone know that they are “not as sick” as another person can be exceedingly triggering; for an individual who is already suffering from very low self-esteem, this can be viewed as another thing they are not good enough at, and can prevent them from seeking help until they feel they are “sick enough” to need treatment.
13. Treatment is one size fits all.
Asking for help can be a terrifying experience, and, once an individual has managed to do that, it can be demoralizing when the support does not have the expected outcomes.
Keep trying! Keep trying different types of treatment – do not give up. Just because it did not work, does not mean there is no hope for recovery.