Dispel Common Eating Disorder Myths

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Communities around the world will recognize National Eating Disorders Awareness Week February 22 to February 28, and with good reason. Some 20 million women and 10 million men will suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their lives. Yet, there is still a lot of misunderstanding about these conditions. Although you may understand quite a bit about them, it's important to remember that there are still some persistent myths about eating disorders. Some are below. Myth: Eating disorders are rare. Fact: Eating disorders are actually common, especially among adolescent females in the United States. In this population, anorexia is the 3rd most common chronic illness. In addition, some research shows that up to 7% of females in the United States have had bulimia at some point in their lives.

Myth: Eating disorders are a choice.

Fact: Eating disorders are a complex physical and psychiatric condition that develops over time and requires treatment.


Myth: People with anorexia don’t eat anything.

Fact: How one person’s eating disorder manifests itself is unique. Some people will eat once during the day and only a tiny amount of food. Another person may count calories and stick to an unreasonably low amount.


Myth: It’s only an eating disorder if the person is emaciated.

Fact: Many people with disordered eating will appear to be a normal size. Only a small percentage of people with eating disorders end up looking like the emaciated images often seen in the media.


Myth: You never really recover from an eating disorder.

Fact: Eating disorders are treatable illnesses, and the earlier a disorder is caught, the better the chance of a full recovery.


Myth: Bulimia is not that dangerous of a condition.

Fact: Bulimia, which can go undetected for a long time, can cause serious health problems. Electrolyte imbalances can lead to irregular heartbeat and even death. In addition, people with anorexia can also suffer problems with their esophagus, stomach, intestines and teeth.

It’s important for everyone who works in health care to be familiar with the facts and myths around eating disorders, even if it is not a focus in their community. National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, Feb 22 - Feb 28 is a great time to encourage people to learn more about eating disorders. Screening for Mental Health has partnered with the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) to get the word out. Please contact us if you would like more information.

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