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Misconceptions of Eating Disorders

Updated: Mar 26, 2021


Eating disorders are illnesses in which people experience serious disturbances in thoughts and behaviors related to eating. These disorders include anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, and often stem from a belief of insecurity in their body shape, or a fear of gaining weight. Eating disorders can occur in concurrence with other disorders such as anxiety, panic, OCD, etc. These disorders can be cured through medical care. However, many misconceptions and false beliefs lie around the topic of eating disorders, which can rear themselves due to the fact that eating disorders are confusing illnesses, as well as rumors about them. This can make it difficult to take eating disorders seriously.


  1. It is easy to cure.

Many people believe they can talk their loved one out of going through this illness because the loved one, or the one with the illness chose to go through it. However, this is not true. Eating disorders often occur due to biological factors, possibly hereditary pathways, and other mental health conditions that one has concurrently. Additionally, issues affecting the individual such as abuse, depression, past trauma, and unhealthy relationships can contribute to the formation of an eating disorder.

2. They are a “woman's disease” and don’t affect males.

Although statistics show that they affect more women than men, men can still be afflicted with an eating disorder, with a recent Harvard study showing that 25% of individuals presenting for anorexia treatment were males, and 40% presenting for binge eating were male. This misconception can often prevent accurate diagnosis of the eating disorder in males.

3. You can diagnose someone with an eating disorder by looking at their appearance.

This belief is very misleading as only anorexia nervosa has criteria that include underweight as part of its diagnosis. Approximately 65% of people with bulimia are of normal weight, and other eating disorders like binge-eating disorder, orthorexia, compulsive overeating, and avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) don’t have any body restrictions in their diagnosis criteria. This myth is often peddled by the media and other public discussions, where skinny people are targeted to have eating disorders, but it is important that people know these are false facts.

4. Age plays a role in the formation of eating disorders.

This is completely false, as eating disorders can affect many people in all ranges of ages. Additionally, people who struggled with eating disorders early in their lives can have relapses of the same behavior, or develop a new eating disorder.

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