Eating disorders Myths and Realities
Defined by abnormal eating habits, eating disorders (EDs) negatively affect a person’s physical and mental health. Obsession with food, exercise, body weight, shape, etc. are some of the common signs of eating disorders. A progressive disease, EDs are serious and often fatal mental illness that affects at least 30 million people across all age groups and genders in the United States. Considered to have the highest mortality rate of all the mental illnesses, eating disorders claim at least one American life every 62 minutes.
Given the widespread confusion and stigma surrounding mental illnesses in general, eating disorders are often misunderstood. The misunderstandings surrounding EDs often make it more difficult for individuals to seek professional treatment. To better understand the illness, listed below are some eating disorders myths and realities.
Eating Disorder Myth #1: Eating disorders affect only teenage girls
Eating Disorder Fact
No, there is no age or gender bias in eating disorders. Young women and teenage girls are not the only victims of the disease. Though EDs are prevalent in girls during their adolescence, it can also be seen among young children and older adults irrespective of their age and gender. Usually characterized as “women’s problems,” the disease is gender neutral and equally affects boys and men who are often stigmatized from coming forward for a professional diagnosis or are left unaware that they too could be suffering from EDs.
Eating Disorder Myth #2: Eating disorders are caused by bad parenting.
Eating Disorder Fact
EDs are complex illnesses that are not chosen by people and are not caused by a parent’s behavior. Even children of healthy-eating parents are prone to the disease. Though biological factors play a key role in EDs, they commonly occur along with other mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression and social phobia. While parents do not cause EDs, they are crucial to their child’s recovery as they can help him/her to recognize the feelings in productive ways and create a recovery-promoting environment.