Real or not real? This is the question we need to ask ourselves when it comes to any belief surrounding eating disorders. This certainly isn’t the easiest thing, given how stigmatized eating disorders are. My hope is that this post will help you distinguish between the truths and lies.
REAL – Eating disorders don’t discriminate. When you’re asked to think of someone with an eating disorder, most likely you picture a white, adolescent or early adulthood middle or upper class woman who is stick thing. This image, although true for some, is not true for all. Eating disorder sufferers can be any race, body type, gender, sexual orientation, age, and socioeconomic background.
NOT REAL – You can determine if someone has an eating disorder and how “sick” they are just by looking at them. While there are some physical symptoms (dry skin, swollen cheeks, hair loss, brittle nails, bags under eyes, etc.), in general people with eating disorders look no different than anyone else. We are not all emaciated, and, in fact, most are within the “normal/healthy” range. Body weight and type is no determining factor. You can die from an eating disorder at any size. Even if you never get medically unstable, living each day with an ED is slowly killing you anyways. How sick, or severe the sickness is, is not something you can tell by appearance.
REAL – Treatment is essential to recovery. Just 1 in 10 people with eating disorders ever get treatment for them. Let that sink in a bit. If we were talking about cancer, diabetes, or basically any other illness, this fact would be considered outrageous. Just as treatment is necessary for any other disease its true for eating disorder recovery. Without treatment, most have no chance at all of recovering.
NOT REAL – Body image is the sole cause of eating disorders. Yes, body image can and does play a huge role for plenty of people with EDs. This is far from the only factor in the development of the disorders, however. There are so many possible underlying issues or situations including, but certainly not limited to depression, anxiety, abuse, self-harm, trauma, genetics, low self-esteem, perfectionism, dieting and stress.
REAL – Eating disorders are deadly. Around 20% of people diagnosed with eating disorders will die from either suicide or complications from the disorder. We lose someone to an eating disorder every 69 minutes, 23 people a day.
NOT REAL – Eating disorders go away after the bare minimum amount of treatment. Eating disorders simply don’t vanish that easily. We’ve had some treatment and therefor are expected to go back to a healthy relationship with food. Recovery takes so much more effort. It can be a very long time until you’re at a healthy place again, and that’s okay.
REAL – Eating disorders are NOT a choice. I really don’t understand why people would even consider for a moment that those with eating disorders would ever consciously choose to live that way. Its miserable, time-consuming, harmful to your body, and consumes you, leaving no room for anything in your life. Why would anyone pick that kind of life?
Please try to take this information with you. Everyone knows someone affected by an eating disorder and these truths and falsities will shape your interactions with them in a positive way.