Eating disorders can at times feel extremely confusing. They are very complex mental illnesses and there are a lot of misconceptions about their causes, presentations and treatment. These misconceptions or myths can negatively impact those who have been impacted by eating disorders. Myths can also fuel stigma which often prevents individuals from getting the support that they need and deserve. Understanding these myths can help promote awareness and lead to better treatment outcomes for individuals and their families.
Here are Five Eating Disorder Myths that you May Not be Aware of:
Myth: If they’re eating, they’re better.
Truth: Just because someone is eating, does not mean that they are doing so in a healthy manner. We also don’t know the psychological distress that might be going on while an individual partakes in meals. It takes time to address all aspects that have impacted the eating disorder and if those factors are not addressed, there is a greater likelihood of relapse.
Myth: You can tell who has an eating disorder by their body shape.
Truth: This is perhaps one of the most harmful myths for those who have been impacted by these conditions. Individuals living with eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes. Unfortunately, this myth has prevented many people from seeking life-saving treatment because they didn’t perceive their body size or weight to be “sick enough” to warrant care. All individuals experiencing symptoms of all eating disorders deserve and need treatment for both medical and emotional consequences.
Myth: Only teen girls get eating disorders.
Truth: Anyone may suffer from eating disorders. Period. They do not discriminate against age, gender, socioeconomic status, religion, or race.
Myth: Eating disorders are a choice.
Truth: Eating disorders are most definitely not a choice. A conglomerate of factors interact in order to lead an individual to begin using food as a means of coping. Those factors include one’s biology (e.g., genes, temperament), psychology (e.g., emotional dysregulation, thoughts) and social environment (e.g., societal influences, family values, and major life events). Though having an eating disorder is not a choice, once it is recognized, individuals and their loved ones certainly have a choice around how to respond.
Myth: You can’t recover from an eating disorder.
Truth: Eating disorder recovery is possible! By no means is overcoming an eating disorder an easy feat, but it does not mean it is impossible. Many individuals are able to repair their relationship with food and find alternative coping skills to deal with uncomfortable emotions. Treatment can help support you in reaching recovery.
Myths foster secrecy and prevent individuals from seeking the support that they so deserve. If you or a loved one might be living with an eating disorder like anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder and you’re wondering how to get the support you deserve, reach out to us. We have a wide variety of services that are vital to recovery and we’d love to hear from you!
Sarah-Eve Hamel, LMHC is an adult clinician in the PHP and IOP programs in Worcester and the Binge Eating Disorder Coordinator in Milford. She provides individual, family, and group counseling to adults with eating disorders. She received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Concordia University and her master’s degree in counseling psychology from Assumption College. Sarah-Eve incorporates Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) in her work with patients. She is also passionate about research and education around the topics of mental health and eating disorders. In her spare time she enjoys spending time with family, rock climbing, and running outdoors.