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5 Common Myths and Stereotypes About Eating Disorders

Top Misconceptions About People with Eating Disorders

When it comes to the topic of eating disorders, misconceptions can hurt people who are suffering. Here are some of the most common myths and stereotypes about eating disorders and why they're incorrect.

MYTH 1: Only young women have eating disorders.

Contrary to popular belief, eating disorders can affect anyone, regardless of their sex, age or socioeconomic status.

Many people are surprised to learn that men account for between 20 - 30% of eating disorder cases. Most people who have eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 26. There are also a number of people who are diagnosed later in life. Many of these people actually first developed issues at a younger age and carried it deep into adulthood.

MYTH 2: You can tell someone has an eating disorder from their appearance.

When most people think about someone with an eating disorder, they picture a person who appears unhealthy and emaciated. Many people who have eating disorders have a normal weight, and many are even larger-bodied.

Because they are often motivated by unrealistic perceptions of beauty, people with eating disorders may work out a lot and appear to have their lives together. Underneath the surface, however, they may be struggling both physically and emotionally.

MYTH 3: Once someone starts gaining weight, they are cured.

When it comes to treating someone with an eating disorder, nutritional stability is only part of the solution. Eating disorders tend to involve an underlying, unhealthy system of beliefs where a person values themselves almost exclusively based on their body image.

If they don't work through these issues, there's a good chance the person will relapse over time. In addition to good, moderate eating habits, people with eating disorders often need therapy and engaging social activities that help build confidence, develop positive body images , and boost self-esteem .

MYTH 4: People choose to have eating disorders.

Because they require willful acts, many people discount eating disorders as optional self-harm. In reality, people with eating disorders have very little choice in the matter. These issues are caused by a combination of psychological, biological and environmental factors that are all beyond a person's control.

Studies have even shown that many eating disorders are associated with inheritable genes that can be passed down from parents. Whatever the cause, it's important to understand that people do not choose to develop eating disorders.

MYTH 5: Eating disorders aren't that serious.

Statistically, eating disorders are the most fatal of all mental illnesses. According to research , the mortality rate of anorexia nervosa is 12 times higher than the death rate of any other cause of death for girls and women between the ages of 15 and 24.

Studies have also found that 20% of people with anorexia go on to die from complications of their disorders, including heart problems and suicide. When people purge as part of an eating disorder, they can develop tearing and inflammation of the esophagus. They can also suffer dangerous electrolyte imbalances that can lead to organ failure. This is why it's so important to seek help if you or someone you love is suffering from an eating disorder.

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