“You can tell if someone is suffering from ED from their appearance.”
Only a minority of individuals with Eating Disorders are actually underweight and although the media may perpetuate an image of sufferers being emaciated, this is quite unhelpful. This can lead to people not seeking out help because they don’t believe they are unwell enough, and it means loved ones might not realise there is a problem even though there is other evidence to suggest it. Additionally with BED it is impossible to judge whether the individual is struggling or recovered based on their weight, as fluctuations happen often.
“Only wealthy, white teenage girls get eating disorders.”
Eating disorders do not discriminate. We know this from our experience in practice, seeing a wide variety of different socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds, and even all different ages. However, there is a tendency for people struggling with eating disorders to be younger. A majority of people diagnosed with an eating disorder are between the ages of 12 and 26. Those who are diagnosed later in life may have developed an eating disorder when they were younger but did not seek treatment or did not have available treatment. Also contrary to popular belief, approximately 20 to 30% of sufferers are male.
“As a parent, I need to find out what I did to cause my child’s eating disorder.”
Recent research supports eating disorders having a very biological root, and although parents have shouldered a lot of the blame in the past, it does not mean that you should. In our clinic we see every type of eating disorder, and they all develop differently for each person affected. There is no set of guidelines that a parent could follow to predict or prevent the development of an Eating Disorder, and absorbing the responsibility for it is likely to make your role as a calming influence more difficult, for you and for your child. Everyone within the family can be supportive to the recovery process however, and psychologists have seen improvements in speed of return to health when parents are included in the treatment process.
“They aren’t ready to recover, and there’s nothing I can do about it.”
Many people with disordered eating do not realise how badly it is affecting them, and they can heavily resist any kinds of change. Some may rely on the illness as an integral part of them, and can’t imagine life without that level of control. Others cancel their appointments with us at the last minute because the reality of the situation is too much. We absolutely understand the difficulty of pushing a loved one in a direction they are unwilling to go in, it is hugely important that you express your concerns to them and impress upon them the importance of getting help. A good start we have found is to encourage them to get blood tests, which can be analysed by a professional to identify if the individual is unwell. When presented with hard facts it is more difficult for the psychological elements of the illness to be resistant.
“Purging only involves self-induced vomiting.”
Purging includes any method of removing food from the body before it is fully digested. Many times, an individual is driven to purge to compensate for what was perceived as excessive food intake. While self induced vomiting is one of the most common ways that an individual will purge, it’s far from the only method. Individuals can also use laxatives and enemas, as well as use non-purging compensatory behaviors, such as abusing insulin, fasting, and excessive exercising. Individuals can also purge by using more than one method. Each method carries its own particular risks, but all involve potentially life-threatening electrolyte imbalances.
What are the effects of eating disorder myths?
From research, we know that the less the perceived stigma the more likely people are to seek help and the better their long-term prognosis is going to be. Not all clinicians are immune to the effects of eating disorder myths; surprisingly eating disorders can go undiagnosed in part because of clinicians failing to see past the stereotypes.