Even the most skilled therapists and clinicians who work with eating disorders can find these complex and challenging conditions difficult to understand. The treatment and recovery process around disordered eating can be lengthy and involve a combination of in-patient and out-patient therapy, nutrition counseling, medical care, and work with other professionals. Since these conditions, their causes, and the effects of eating disorders are extremely complicated, it is no surprise that it is easy to find a lot of misinformation related to disordered eating. Whether you struggle with eating disorders, know someone who does, or you are just curious, this blog will breakdown some of the most common myths associated with eating disorders and provide basic information about what eating disorders are, their causes, and the importance of therapy as part of the healing and recovery process.
Myth 1 – People Choose to Have an Eating Disorder
This is one we hear often. People choose to have eating disorders, so they should be able to choose to stop. An eating disorder is not a choice. They are complicated conditions that are often a mix of medical, behavioral, and psychiatric concerns that impact a person’s relationship to food, eating, and perception of their body. The underlying causes of eating disorders are not always clear. Researchers and clinicians think genetic, environmental, societal, and developmental factors may all contribute to the development of disordered eating.
Myth 2 – Eating Disorders Are Not a Big Deal
Many people think that eating disorders are not a serious health concern or anything to be worried about. However, disordered eating has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric diagnosis, and some research indicates that as much as 20% of people who struggle with anorexia nervosa will die as a direct result of their condition. Research into bulimia and other eating disorders have shown similar mortality statistics. In addition to death caused by health issues directly related to eating disorders, suicide rates are also very high among individuals with eating disorders. It is extremely important to seek adequate medical and therapeutic support to address eating disorders.
Myth 3 – Eating Disorder Behaviors Are all Food Related
While the amount of food being consumed, when it is eaten, and other food-specific issues are fundamental aspects of disordered eating, other behaviors that may not seem directly related to disordered eating may be present, including excessive exercise, obsessive thinking, compulsive behaviors, and perfectionism. Therapy can be beneficial to help individuals overcome the food-related behaviors and other behavioral changes related to disordered eating.
Myth 4 – I Would Know if My Loved One Had an Eating Disorder
For many people with eating disorders, hiding and lying to cover up their behavior and symptoms is part of their condition. People can go years, even living in close quarters, without realizing that their loved one has an eating disorder. In addition to hiding eating disorders, some people who are suffering from these conditions lack the self-awareness to accurately identify disordered eating. They do not consider their behaviors to be a problem, so you may not notice that anything is wrong. Therapy can help individuals gain self-awareness and begin making positive changes in their behavior for better overall health and reduced eating disorder behaviors.
Myth 5 – Some Eating Disorders Are Beneficial
Some people with eating disorders see their unhealthy habits as being positive if they are able to achieve weight loss or other goals. This perception is very harmful. Even if the person with the eating disorder is not severely underweight or struggling with other obvious health issues related to eating disorders like hair loss or tooth decay, eating disorders also impact health in ways you don’t necessarily see just by looking, including diminished bone density and strain on the heart and other organs. Even if a person with an eating disorder looks healthy, they may still be experiencing adverse effects.
Consider Counseling for Eating Disorders
At the Behavioral Health Alliance, we are happy to provide outpatient therapy support for people who are working to recover from eating disorders. If you have questions or you are ready to schedule a session with one of our skilled therapists, please get in touch. You can call our office at (952) 652-3439, email [email protected], or complete our online contact form.