In the third part of the YEP’s series marking Eating Disorders Awareness Week, we’re challenging some of society’s common myths surrounding the conditions.
Here are a list of myths and facts surrounding eating disorders:
MYTH: Eating disorders are just a faddy diet gone too far.
FACT: Eating disorders are serious, mental illnesses which require prompt, appropriate treatment.
Anorexia is the illness where people restrict the food they eat to a harmful extent. People with bulimia are rarely underweight.
MYTH: Eating disorders only affect impressionable girls from privileged backgrounds.
FACT: Eating disorders can affect people of any age, gender, culture, ethnicity or background. Girls and young women aged 12-20 are most at risk. Up to 25 per cent of cases could be boys and men.
MYTH: Eating disorders are only a modern phenomenon.
FACT: Eating disorders were first observed and recorded in the 1680s and have been known throughout history.
The pressures and pace of modern life and the spread of a global westernised culture play a part in any reported increase.
MYTH: Eating disorders are a lifestyle choice.
FACT: People with eating disorders do not choose to be ill, and they are not trying to seek attention. They can find it very difficult to believe that they are ill, and equally hard to acknowledge it once they do know. This is one of the most challenging aspects of how the illness affects someone’s thinking and behaviour.
MYTH: No one ever really recovers from an eating disorder, you’ve got it for life.
FACT: Eating disorders are treatable and full recovery is possible. There can be serious long- term consequences to physical health if the conditions are not treated quickly.
Some people do develop a long- term or recurrent eating disorder, but treatment is improving all the time.
MYTH: You can tell just by looking at someone if they have an eating disorder.
FACT: Eating disorders are mental illnesses – so it is someone’s thoughts, feelings and emotions that are involved. Eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes and not everyone affected will be very underweight or even ill-looking.
MYTH: Eating disorders are caused by bad parents.
FACT: Parents don’t cause eating disorders. The causes are complex and many factors are involved. Parents and families can play a vital part in helping their loved ones beat an eating disorder, and the more they learn to understand the condition, the more they can help.
MYTH: People with eating disorders are just trying to look thin like their celebrity idols.
FACT: People with eating disorders typically have very low self esteem and feel worthless. They are more likely to wish to disappear and not be noticed than want to draw attention to themselves.
*Myths and facts provided by Beat, the national eating disorders charity.