Nearly 50% of people either know someone with an eating disorder or have been affected by one personally. Despite this high number, there are still a lot of myths out there about them. These misconceptions reinforce the stigma and make it difficult for people to get help for them. Florida’s top psychiatrists debunk the 8 most common myths about eating disorders out there.
Myth #1: Men don’t get eating disorders
Fact: Women do have a higher rate of developing an eating disorder but that doesn’t mean men are immune. Psychiatrists say that 1 out of ever 10 people with an eating disorder is male. This number is also rising. Men are the demographic with the fastest rise in eating disorder in the past 10 years. It’s true that women have a much higher rate of developing anorexia or bulimia, but when it comes to disorders like binge eating disorder men makeup close to 40%.
Myth #2: All people with eating disorders are thin
Fact: We often equate eating disorders to deathly thin girls. The truth is that people with eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes. Many eating disorders don’t result in drastic changes. People who suffer from disorders like bulimia or binge eating are usually average or overweight, not underweight. Even athletes can struggle with these disorders. Eating disorders are a mental illness that can’t always be identified by sight.
Myth #3: Eating disorders are a choice
Fact: One of the defining features people who have eating disorders identify is feeling out of control. Eating disorders aren’t lifestyle choices or extreme dieting. They are a mental illness. These disorders develop due to genetics, trauma, or other psychological factors out of an individual’s control. Eating disorders are no more a choice than cancer or anxiety.
Myth #4: Eating disorders are just a phase
Fact: Eating disorders tend to affect young females more than any other demographic. Because they hit youths, people brush them off as a phase like piercings or pink hair. Unlike these other teenage phases, eating disorders won’t go away on their own. Without help, individuals can face serious consequences, including death.
Myth #5: People with these disorders are just attention seekers
Fact: Most people with eating disorders go to great lengths to hide their behavior. It’s part of the reason people don’t get help early on. Anorexics will hide their weight loss with loose clothing. Bulimics will conceal their binging and purging sessions. Binge eaters will lie about their food consumption. These individuals aren’t seeking attention if anything they’re running from it.
Myth #6: Eating disorders aren’t dangerous
Fact: Many people don’t realize that eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. Without treatment, almost 20% of individuals suffering from eating disorders die as a result. Even with proper treatment, fatality is still significant. Even without a fatality, there are other severe medical complications such as infertility, bone disease, gastrointestinal distress, and cardiac complications.
Myth #7: Parents or dysfunctional families cause eating disorders
Fact: Florida psychiatrists say this is one of the most dangerous and deep-rooted myths. Historically, parents were blamed and seen as a cause of the eating disorders. Studies have shown though that parenting styles don’t cause eating disorders. However, there is a strong genetic basis for them. If a parent has or had an eating disorder their child is more likely to develop it. This genetic basis is no different from other physical and mental illnesses like cancer or bipolar disorder. Parents shouldn’t be seen as part of the problem, they should be seen as part of the solution.
Myth #8: You can’t recover from an eating disorder
Fact: Recovery is really challenging for eating disorders but it is possible. Top Florida psychiatrists say it may take months or even year, but with proper treatment people can go on to lead normal, healthy lives free from their eating disorders.
Contact one of Florida’s top psychiatrist if you or someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder. Getting treatment and help early on is extremely important.