National Eating Disorder Awareness Week is coming to an end and I knew I could not ignore it’s presence and had to write about it. What I really wanted to address is the myths and stereotypes associated with the disease.
Myths Associated with Eating Disorders
1. Only skinny people that starve themselves have an eating disorder.
Truth: An eating disorder cannot be identified just by someone’s looks. There are some naturally skinny women that eat a normal diet (possibly even a high fat diet) while another girl who may look to have a normal sized frame is limiting herself to less than 500 calories a day. This may be helpful; let’s look at the definition of an eating disorder:
“Any of a range of psychological disorders characterized by abnormal or disturbed eating habits (such as anorexia nervosa).”
The key word in the definition is range. Another point to add is not only those who restrict their calories have disordered eating. Eating disorders also include binge eating disorder, bulimia, excessive eating, and eating disorders not otherwise specified. All are different forms of disordered eating, not just starvation methods.
2. Eating disorders only affect young girls.
Unfortunately, this is the biggest stigma around the disease and it can really affect the treatment of the patient. The truth is eating disorders can affect both girls, boys, women, and men at ALL ages.
Women’s Health this morning came out with a great article called, The Scary Rise of Adult Eating Disorders. It sheds a true light on what it is like to have an eating disorder as an adult and how even doctors do not play a role in treatment because they think the disease does not affect women or men whom are adults.
The same ignorance occurs when it comes to treating boys with eating disorders. Most doctors or parents do not think that this disease effects boys and they ignore the pain that their boy is going through until it is too late.
The real message: Eating Disorders affect all people no matter what gender, race, religion, and age.
3. People with eating disorders are crazy.
Eating disorders are psychological diseases, but most of the people it affects are actually very intelligent, type-A, high functioning individuals. Many of those affected are able to still keep a job and keep it as a secret to those around them.
4. There is nothing you can do that will help a person recover from an eating disorder.
Though this may seem like it is true to many people who have tried to help a family member or friend, the truth is any reaching out will help that person recover. The frustrating part for families and friends is that the average recovering time for a patient is around 6 years, so it takes a lot of support and dedication to help.
There are many treatment techniques that families can do when trying to get their loved ones help and this article goes in detail of the steps. Do not leave these steps to the patient because they probably have yet to accept the fact that they are sick.
The last and final myth is a reminder for those who are suffering.
5. Eating disorder patients never get better.
I cannot say that patients always recover because the sad truth is that many patients every year die from the disease, but most patients in general do reach full recovery. Stay strong and listen to your friends and family, they are only there to help you.
I hope this was educational and will help you be more aware about the disease. Though it may seem taboo for some people to talk about eating disorders, it truly exists and everyone knows at least one person dealing with the disease.
To a Healthy, Happy (More Aware) New-U!