Eating Disorders: Getting Past the Myths

Many people are aware of the serious nature of eating disorders, but sometimes stereotypes and myths can distort our perception of the illnesses.  We think that individuals with eating disorders should look or act a certain way because of what we see or read in the media or what is most often discussed in conversations.  Although, some of this information can be true, oftentimes, they are just myths that can lead us away from completely understanding the illness.

 A recent article addresses some of the myths and stereotypes that are perpetuated about eating disorders.  One common misconception is that all people with eating disorders are women. Although women make up the majority of the cases, an estimated 5-15 percent of people with eating disorders are men. Another common myth is that people who have eating disorders are really thin. We often envision emaciated images of young women when we think of someone with an eating disorder.  These images are extreme and unfortunately have created a stereotyped image of a person with an eating disorder.  In reality, people with eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes.  Finally, many people often blame the media for causing and perpetuating eating disorders by advertising images of idealized beauty. While this is certainly a problem and something must be done to educate advertiser of the damage they are doing, we cannot forget that an eating disorder is a mental illnesses and the individual’s psychological and social problems must be addressed through intense therapy and intervention. Helping an individual overcome their own negative body image and low self-esteem gets to the root of the illness and will have better solutions for someone who already suffers from an eating disorder than simply removing distorted advertising images from the media.

Eating disorders are serious illnesses that are difficult to understand.  But by dispelling the common myths and stereotypes, we can better understand the illnesses and how to help the people who are suffering from them.

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