There’s an awful lot of misconceptions floating around when it comes to eating disorders and as an anorexia sufferer, addressing these misconceptions is extremely important to me. I’ve been meaning to write this post for some time as I believe it’s important we talk openly about the reality of life with an eating disorder, as their widespread misrepresentation can be extremely damaging. Not only does a lack of understanding impact how we treat sufferers, it may also prevent those who desperately need help from receiving potentially life-saving support.
A few months back I posted the above question on Twitter and received a range of responses. Since then I have written a post on some of the misconceptions surrounding anorexia. However, this time around I want to address eating disorders as a whole rather than only focusing on the one type, which brings me onto my first point…
Anorexia and Bulimia Aren’t the Only Eating Disorders
We’ve all probably heard of anorexia and bulimia, but what about the many other eating disorders that exist? It’s much less common to hear discussion around say, Binge Eating Disorder (BED) or EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified). And even if we have heard of them we tend to think of them as ‘less serious’.
EDNOS may be given as a diagnosis when a patient does not fully meet the criteria for either anorexia, bulimia or BED or they may display symptoms from a mixture. However, this does not for one second make it a less serious diagnosis. Any form of disordered eating can have fatal consequences and should be treated seriously.
Eating Disorders Do Not Discriminate
That’s right, anyone can suffer from an eating disorder. No matter their gender, race or age. We often think of eating disorders as only effecting young teenage girls, but this is far from the case. Absolutely anybody can be the victim of an eating disorder and yet most sufferers don’t get any form of recognition. Men, for example, can suffer from eating disorders too and yet we only ever see, hear and read stories of how women are affected.
This is especially true on social media where stereotypes are rife. However, the media is often people’s only source of information and that makes awareness very limited (hence why we need to talk about mental health conditions and why I’m writing this post right now!).
Eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes
When I say the words eating disorder what instantly comes to mind? Perhaps somebody who is severely underweight and emaciated? Many of us tend to assume that to have an eating disorder, you have to be underweight. However, the majority of people who struggle with an eating disorder appear perfectly healthy from the outside.
Despite this, there is no doubt that they are probably suffering crippling emotional pain on the inside. Eating disorders are mental illnesses with physical consequences. Yes, one of those consequences may be a low weight, but it can also include being overweight, a healthy weight or anything in between!
More Than Skin Deep
The root cause of an eating disorder often goes much deeper than simply obsessing over one’s looks. Some may view eating disorders as narcissistic or vain, but I can assure you it’s the opposite. Controlling food and weight may be a person’s way of dealing with extreme negative thoughts and feelings such as low self-esteem. Nobody develops an eating disorder simply to make themselves look more attractive.
I could spend all day writing this post and I probably wouldn’t have even covered half of the eating disorder misconceptions that exist. It’s sad to think that as a society we are still so misinformed when it comes to eating disorders and so many other mental health conditions for that matter.
However, when originally posting the question on Twitter the above points were mentioned time and time again and I therefore felt they needed to be included. Perhaps the others will have to go in another post.
Comment below if you’d like to see a second part to this post or if there are any eating disorder misconceptions you feel need to be addressed.
Finally, a special thanks to everybody who responded to my tweet.
– Lisa x