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6 Common Myths About Eating Disorders

Updated: Sep 12, 2022

Eating disorders can be a difficult subject for many. Not everyone understands what they are and how they affect those around them. With eating disorders impacting at least 28.8 million Americans, however, it is important we understand what causes them and the behaviors associated with EDs. Otherwise, there are a lot of myths and assumptions that circulate, spreading spread false information which can be extremely unhelpful for those in need of support.


Here are ten common myths about eating disorders that you may have heard:

  1. Eating disorders are only about food

While most people with eating disorders have disordered eating habits, EDs are not simply about food. They also involve thoughts and behaviors that revolve around the obsession with calories and weight, and there are normally underlying reasons why these obsessions are present to begin with. Eating disorders commonly involve excessive exercise and methodic rituals associated with carrying out the ED. Most people think telling someone to just eat more and be happy with the way they look will help with their symptoms, in reality, not only can these sentiments be unhelpful, but it some cases, they can be harmful. Treatment involves working closely with a licensed therapist who is familiar with working with Eds to reframe negative thought patterns and beliefs about self so that the unhealthy behaviors can change.

2. Only woman have eating disorders

Both men and women are affected by eating disorders. While it is more common to know a woman with an eating disorder, there are many men that suffer as well. And many men decide not to get help because of the stigma attached to being a male with an ED. It is more common to hear about women suffering from eating disorders because more women seek treatment than men, and it is more likely for people to look for symptoms in women. It is important that this assumption is dispelled so men with EDs feel comfortable coming forward and getting the treatment they need.

  1. Only thin people suffer from eating disorders

Never judge a book by its cover. Just because someone doesn’t look small enough to you to have an eating disorder does not mean they aren’t suffering from one. Also, there are many people who have a high metabolism and who are thin as a result who do not have eating disorders. These individuals also often have a lot of shame associated with an inability to gain weight. It is important to never make assumptions about another person’s mental health.

There are many different types of eating disorders, and no one is affected by them in the same way. This myth contributes to the fact that many people go undiagnosed or are misdiagnosed because of their appearance. When looking for signs of an eating disorder you should never solely focus on the person’s physical appearance, as many people with eating disorders are of normal weight, and not all eating disorder involve overly strictive diets or a cycle of binging and purging.

4. Eating disorders are a choice

Like a drug addiction, no one with an eating disorder chooses to have one. Eating disorders are complex mental health condition that can cause serious damage. Also like a drug addiction, there is an addiction component to EDs and it can feel impossible to break the cycle. There are also environmental and genetic factors that can contribute to developing an eating disorder that an individual is likely not to have chosen at all. By putting the idea out there that people can choose to have eating disorders, it takes away from the complexity and severity of the disease and makes people who have EDs feel invalidated.

5. My child is too young to have an eating disorder.

Sadly, eating disorders can develop at any age. Pickiness and food obsession can start young and may be a sign of an eating disorder. If you see signs of abnormal eating habits in your child, you should contact a professional to see if it is something to worry about.

6. Eating disorders are a way to receive attention.

People with eating disorders often want to avoid attention as much as possible. While in the early stages of weight loss people tend to receive compliments, these tend to be short-lived as it becomes more and more evident that something is wrong. Compliments can also often have a negative effect. Being told you looks great because you’ve lost weight can make someone feel like they didn’t look good before, and that they need to lose more weight to look even better. As the illness progresses an individual with an ED will often try to cover their bodies or hide their weight loss to avoid their bodies being looked at. Eating disorders come with many heavy insecurities – not attention-seeking behaviors.




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