Everyone thinks they know about eating disorders, but do you know the real truth? There are so many misconceptions and myths about eating disorders that it’s easy to believe the fiction over fact. Unfortunately, this can cause you to overlook dangerous behaviors or prolong treatment. Arm yourself with the truth. Here are five of the most common misconceptions about eating disorders.
Misconception #1: You can tell a person has an eating disorder because they’re really thin.
This is a dangerous misconception because many people who engage in dangerous eating disorder behaviors appear to be healthy. Prolonging treatment simply because they “look” okay can lead to serious harm. It’s important to understand that weight is only one symptom of an eating disorder. Educating yourself about all eating disorder symptoms can help you save someone’s life.
Misconception #2: People with an eating disorder can stop, they just don’t want to.
It’s true that many people with eating disorders resist treatment and push people away who try to help. Some individuals will even proclaim (and actually believe) that they can start eating or stop binging or purging if they wanted to. This is just a symptom of their disease. Eating disorders are a serious mental illness — not a “phase” that can be controlled or outgrown. Professional treatment and counseling is often the only way a person can overcome his or her eating disorder.
Misconception #3: Men don’t have eating disorders.
While it’s true that eating disorders predominantly affect females, there is a surprisingly high percentage of men who are also affected. A recent Harvard study revealed that 25 percent of people suffering from anorexia and bulimia are men, and 40 percent of men with eating disorders are binge eaters. This misconception is dangerous because it makes men with eating disorders feel alone and embarrassed to admit that they have a problem. If they knew that eating disorders among men are common, they might have the courage to seek the help they need.
Misconception #4: Overweight or normal-weight people can’t have eating disorders.
Extremely low weight is a sign of anorexia, but it’s not the only sign. In fact, 70 percent of women with eating disorders are at or above what’s considered a “healthy” weight. A very thin person may have a perfectly healthy relationship with food, while a seemingly “normal” person may be battling an eating disorder. Also, eating disorders don’t always involve starvation and weight loss. There are many types of disordered eating, including binge eating disorder, which can lead to gaining weight and sometimes obesity over time.
Misconception #5: People who overeat are lazy.
Overeating, or binging, is a serious medical and psychological condition — not laziness. It stems from a compulsive need to push down overwhelming emotions and emptiness with food. A common symptom of overeating is gaining weight. Many binge eaters are physically active and care about their diet, but are unable to stop themselves during binging episodes.
Misconception #6: Eating disorders can’t be cured.
Recovering from an eating disorder is a long, slow process — but it’s not impossible. Studies show that with the appropriate level of treatment, 60 percent of people receiving treatment for an eating disorder experience full recovery, and up to 80 percent experience at least partial recovery. Often, the most appropriate level of treatment is residential or inpatient treatment, which is much more intensive and successful than outpatient therapy.
Don’t let your misconceptions about eating disorders prevent a person from getting the help they need. Call Casa Palmera today and ask their counselors if a residential treatment program for eating disorders is right for you or a loved one.