#NEDAwareness Week: 5 Common Misconceptions about Eating Disorders

Sara Glaser
Sara Glaser

Are you perplexed by who can get an eating disorder, what causes an eating disorder to develop, and other aspects of this condition? Your confusion is likely due to the plethora of inaccuracies that are spread about eating disorders. In honor of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, held from February 25th to March 3rd, here are 5 misconceptions and truths about eating disorders.

  • Misconception #1Only females develop eating disorders.

Truth: While eating disorders are more common in females, 16% of transgender college students have an eating disorder and so do 1 in 10 males. When looking at specific eating disorders, males account for a significant 40% of those with Binge Eating Disorders. So yes, the majority of people that report living with an eating disorder are female, but this illness is far from being an exclusively female condition.

  • Misconception #2: All eating disorders stem from a reaction to images of idealized beauty displayed in the media.

Truth: While the media’s portrayal of the ideal body can play a significant role, there are many other factors that contribute to an eating disorder. Contributors include genetic predispositions, specific temperaments like obsessive thinking and impulsivity, and physical and/or emotional trauma.

  • Misconception #3: All people with eating disorders are teenagers.

Truth: The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) found that eating disorders are most common in people aged 15 to 24. Although, eating disorders are very much present in people other than teens. There have been reports of body image disturbances in children as young as age 5. Additionally, the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD) found that 13% of women over the age of 50 engage in disordered eating behaviors.

  • Misconception #4: You can tell if someone has an eating disorder just by looking at how skinny they are.

Truth: Many people do not experience extreme weight loss as a result of an eating disorder. Binge Eating Disorder, for example, can lead to weight gain. Contrary to popular belief, people with Bulimia Nervosa usually are of normal weight. A person with Anorexia Nervosa, a condition that usually involves weight loss, may look completely healthy to you. Even if someone is engaging in minimal food intake or is purging daily, they can still display “normal” BMIs. Simply put, eating disorders are too complex for you to diagnose someone purely by looking at them.

  • Misconception #5: Once you are diagnosed with an eating disorder, you can never recover.

Truth: It is very possible to recover from an eating disorder. With an increasing number of studies being administered and rapid development in treatment programs, recovery rates are increasing. A successful recovery is not far from reach!

It can take a while to fully grasp the complexities of a mental health condition. As a result, information about conditions like eating disorders are often oversimplified. The fact of the matter is that eating disorders can develop in people of all ages and genders, manifest themselves due to a variety of reasons, and are not noticeable simply by observing how skinny a person is. Most importantly, recovery from an eating disorder is possible!