Eating disorders can be tricky to handle. If you have one, or know someone who does, it can be tough to know what’s happening or sort fact from fiction. There are lots of things that we often automatically think are true about eating disorders that actually are not, and there lots of different types that can affect people differently. So we wanted to bust some myths around disordered eating so that you feel more informed, and can ask for help
Myth 1: It’s only girls that get eating disorders
Anyone, regardless of gender, can develop an eating disorder. Whilst young women aged between 12 and 20 are the most likely to develop an eating disorder, because most people think it’s just for girls, a lot of cases in guys will go undiagnosed for longer. Talking about having an eating disorder is hard for anyone, but when you are part of a minority within the group, it can be even harder.
Myth 2: It’s only teenagers that get them too
Like we said above, anyone can develop one. Just because they are more common in younger girls does not mean that you can’t get one as a 23 year old man, a 9 year old, or any other age. Mental health issues do not discriminate based on age, gender, ethnicity or religion, and anyone can develop any one. Because a lot of society thinks that it’s only young girls developing eating disorders, a lot of those dealing with them in older age brackets struggle to get the support they need, or face further stigma for developing a mental health condition usually associated with young women.
Myth 3: It’s a behaviour you can choose not to do
No one chooses to have an eating disorder. In the same way we don’t choose to develop depression, catch a cold or anything else related to our health, eating disorders are mental health issues that need to be treated.
Myth 4: You have to look a certain way to have an eating disorder
A big misconception with eating disorders is that you have to look a certain way before it’s classed as “real”. As with any mental health issue, eating disorders come in stages, and the earlier one is caught, the more quickly someone will be able to overcome it. Of course, this means that you might not fit the stereotypical image of someone with an eating disorder. But that does not make you any less worthy of help and support.
Myth 5: Eating disorders are easy to overcome alone
The best thing to do if you think you or someone you know might be dealing with an eating disorder is to ask for help. They are difficult to handle, and can be complex to try to defeat for good. Going to a parent, friend or trusted adult is a great way to start the conversation and they might be able to direct you to the support that’s needed.
Myth 6: It’s only an eating disorder if you do certain things
There are lots of stereotypes around eating disorders, but a key one is that you only have one if you excessively exercise or binge and purge. In fact, there are lots of different ways disordered eating behaviours can manifest. For example, it could be that these things only happen intermittently, or for short periods of time. These are classed as an OSFED, or Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder. People suffering with an OSFED are just as worthy of treatment as anyone with typical anorexia or bulimia.
Myth 7: Asking for help is a sign of weakness or failure
It is really important to know that no matter what you are struggling with, asking for help is NEVER weak or a sign of failure. If you don’t feel like you have anyone in your life you can talk to right now, or you’re worried about upsetting them, you can come to us. Reach out to our support community here, and we will listen to you.
If you have been affected by any of the information in this article, you can reach out to our support community here for free confidential support and advice.
For more information on how to deal with mental health issues, go to our Mental Health hub for all the information you need.