It’s unfortunate that there are still so many misunderstandings that exists around Eating Disorders, what they look like and how they actually impact people. I could write a book on these, but for the sake of this post, I’m going to talk about the major misunderstandings we have in our culture surrounding these disorders.
Let’s start off with this. Our education system really has failed us in properly educating us about the reality of Eating Disorders. We are led to believe that Eating Disorders fit a textbook definition. When people are asked about what comes to mind when someone says “Eating Disorder,” most will respond with some form of the following; ”Anorexia, it’s the Eating Disorder where you starve yourself and become really thin and look emaciated.”
Misunderstanding # 1 - YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE UNDERWEIGHT TO HAVE AN EATING DISORDER
Now, I’m not saying the aforementioned version of Anorexia doesn’t exist, but it looks much different in actuality. For Anorexia specifically, you do not have to be underweight to have this Eating Disorder. This is a very dangerous misconception in our culture. Most people who are suffering with Eating Disorders will not seek help because they don’t believe they have an Eating Disorder since they don’t look the part, and therefore are not “sick enough.”
Misunderstanding # 2 - EATING DISORDERS ARE A MENTAL HEALTH ISSUE THAT STEMS MUCH DEEPER THAN THE DESIRE TO LOSE WEIGHT.
Another misunderstanding people have is that an Eating Disorder develops from a diet gone too far and it’s all about losing weight. There are many things wrong with this theory;
1: Not all Eating Disorders have a body image component. For instance, Binge Eating Disorder is an Eating Disorder in which the disordered behaviors do not stem from a desire to lose weight.
2: The desire to lose weight is an expression of the disorder, not where the disorder stems from. Even though some Eating Disorders may seem like it’s all and only about losing weight, there are much deeper issues that are actually going on within the person that you are not seeing, and it’s possible the person suffering doesn’t even see it either.
Eating Disorders develop as a coping mechanism. Some people turn to healthy and adaptive coping skills to feel relief from some negative experience. Some people turn to unhealthy and maladaptive coping skills to find relief. In the case of Eating Disorders, the person is coping with either exercising control over their food in some way or perhaps finding food as a comfort or numbing outlet (depending on the disorder).
Misunderstanding # 3 - EATING DISORDERS ARE INCREDIBLY ILLOGICAL WHICH MAKES IT FEEL IMPOSSIBLE TO REASON WITH THE PERSON SUFFERING. This is the work of therapy.
Eating Disorders seem incredibly illogical. In treatment, one of the first things the Eating Disorder therapist will do is work with you to identify and separate the Eating Disorder self from the healthy self. This basically means that there are 2 parts of you which is resulting in an internal struggle between your Eating Disorder and healthy self. While the Eating Disorder is incredibly illogical at most times, the person suffering usually can identify the lack of logic, yet still feel compelled to listen to it.
This video explains this concept further; Healthy Self vs. Eating Disorder
Misunderstanding # 4 - EATING DISORDERS DO NOT HAVE A SIMPLE SOLUTION
Eating Disorders are not simple and do not have a simple resolution. Eating Disorders do not go away simply by “just eating” or “just stop eating.”
Misunderstanding # 5 - EATING DISORDERS MUST BE TREATED BY AN EATING DISORDER THERAPIST AND MUST BE TREATED DIFFERENTLY THAN OTHER MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES.
Eating Disorders are incredibly complex and are very different from other mental health issues. They must be treated by someone who specializes in the treatment of Eating Disorders. Most therapists indicate that they treat Eating Disorders, but may not have experience in doing so. This is done because there is even a misunderstanding of Eating Disorders within the mental health field itself. Eating Disorders cannot be treated the same way that other mental health issues are treated.
Check out this video on how to find the proper help for an Eating Disorder; Getting the Right Help
I hope you found this post helpful! If you know anyone else who could benefit from reading this, please share with them. If you have any questions, concerns or requests for future posts, please leave a comment or message me privately.
I wish you wellness and understanding on your journey to finding your State of Balance!
You may find these videos helpful!
Getting the Right Help
Healthy Self vs Eating Disorder
Or these other posts!
Guide to Getting Help for an Eating Disorder
Snapshot of the Different Eating Disorders
What to Say to Someone You Feel May Have an Eating Disorder
Binge And Restrict Cycle
Eating Disorder Specialist
Healthy Self Vs. Eating Disorder