Eating Disorder Myths

MYTH: “Eating disorders are “phase of life” problems”
Individuals will simply not “get over it” or “grow out of it.” They are not a “cry for help” and individuals do not normally use their eating disorder in an attempt to simply “get attention.” Eating Disorders are serious and complex problems arising from a combination of physical, emotional, social, and familial issues. All of these issues have to be addressed for recovery to be successful.

MYTH: “Individuals with eating disorders are “crazy”
In fact, individuals suffering from an eating disorder can often be the most mentally healthy individual in the family system. They simply are the “identified patient” that the family focuses on as the problem in order to prevent dealing with the underlying problems of the family unit.

MYTH: “Eating disorders are just a “rich people” problem that is a choice and therefore can be “fixed.”
Eating disorders are complex and chronic illnesses that are often misunderstood and misdiagnosed. The fact is that all socioeconomic and ethnic groups are at risk. In fact one of the most at risk populations is Japanese girls. And in countries such as Argentina the eating disorder rates are 3 times higher than those in the US, based on population.

MYTH: “Eating disorders only affect teens and adults”
People often think that eating disorders do not happen to very young girls. WRONG! Children ages 8 to 12 are being admitted to treatment facilities for eating disorders in growing numbers. The problem we now face, many facilities are not equipped to treat these young girls. The costs of treating young kids are another huge expense currently not covered by most insurance companies.

MYTH: “Eating disorders are just a “woman’s problem.”
The growing rate of males seeking treatment for eating disorders is proof of that. Males are preoccupied with shape and weight and can not only suffer from eating disorders but are also at risk for steroid use. Also males play a huge role in prevention by commenting on girls’ looks, whether positive or negative. We know that women’s bodies are the focus of objectification and this contributes directly to one’s obsession with their appearance and shame about their body.

It is possible to fully recover from an eating disorder! Recovery is an ongoing process where one learns to be more aware of their surroundings, their feelings, and the feelings of others. They work at being conscious of their eating habits, bodily sensations, spirituality, relationships, and how to ask for what they need. Individuals who recover from their eating disorder are often some of the most mentally and physically “healthy” individuals we see in our society. They are well-rounded and are able to achieve a sense of balance in their lives that lead to a more accepting and peaceful spirit.

Perhaps the biggest myth of all is that others can “understand” the intense fear, loneliness, and anguish that the eating disorder brings. The fact is that we all feel our fear, loneliness, and misery differently, and for those who have never experienced an eating disorder in their life it is impossible to fully grasp the pain that accompanies these disorders. One of the most common statements made by eating disordered individuals are “You don’t understand – no one understands” Often we try to tell them we do understand! No we don’t! And that’s OK. The mere fact that we really want to understand and wish we could understand is more comforting to the individual than claiming that we “know” how they feel.

Here in Orange County there is the myth that eating disorders are a “fad.” The idea is that girls simply engage in these acts together as a means of dieting. Yes, sadly some times individuals get started in their eating disorder by “dieting” with their friends, but the ones who will develop an actual eating disorder are not doing it to fit in or as a dietary tool. The mental anguish and physical pain that come along with the disorder simply are not worth the perceived “perks.”