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Common Myths and Misconceptions About Eating Disorders

By Edited Feb 25, 2016 3 8

Does My Daughter Have an Eating Disorder?

There are many myths and misconceptions about eating disorders. The diseases of anorexia and bulimia affect mostly young women across socio-economic lines and race.  However, with the desire for ripped mid-sections and toned arms, eating disorders has been on the rise among teenage boys for the past several years.
Before the myths about eating disorders (ED) can be deconstructed, one needs to know exactly what they are.

Myths About Eating Disorders
Anorexia nervosa is self-starvation. Those affected by the disease refuse to eat, despite the fact that they are hungry. Anorexics are obsessed with food, and think about it 24/7.  How many fewer calories can they eat today than yesterday?  How long can they go before they cave to their hunger?  It effects their relationships, their grades, and most importantly, their health.  It can lead to heart issues that eventually can cause death. [1]    

In fact, and anorexia nervosa is a very serious illness, with the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disease. [2]    Studies have shown that those who have the disease for 20 years , 1/5 of those  who have never fully recovered, die from it. [3]

Bulimia nervosa is the cycle of binging on food and then self-inducing purging, whether it be by vomiting or the use of laxatives and diuretics.  They cannot control the urge to get rid of their food and often feel depressed after having done it.  [4]

Binge Eating Disorder is the compulsion to overeat huge quantities of food, and then feel guilty about it.  You cannot stop yourself from eating and repeat the behavior over and over again.  [5]

Another kind of eating disorder is known as Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS). Those diagnosed with this do not meet the full range of issues that anorexics and bulimics have, but nonetheless do have an eating disorder and face the same medical complications that those exhibiting the full range of issues. [6]

What Are the Common Misconceptions About Eating Disorders?

They Are Caused by Parents

There is a lot of debate on this issue.  There are eating disorder treatment centers that do place blame on the parents-whether intentional (telling their child to lose weight) or unintentional (making comments about others who are overweight or dividing foods into good and bad).

Others, like those who practice the Maudelsy Method of treating eating disorders, do not think that at all.  They believe family is central to the recovery of a child with an eating disorder. Placing blame does not solve the problem, parental involvement does. 

The bottom line is that there is no single reason why a person develops an eating disorder.  It is a combination of internal and external factors that create the perfect storm.

This is the First Book Parents Should Read While Seeking Treatment for Their Child

Help Your Teenager Beat an Eating Disorder, First Edition
Amazon Price: $18.95 $4.73 Buy Now
(price as of Feb 25, 2016)
This book takes the blame off parents and instead empowers them to be on the front line of their son or daughter's recovery. No matter what popular culture and some eating disorder recovery centers may say, parents are not to blame!

Eating Disorders Are Not a Mental Illness, Just a Diet Gone Bad

An eating disorder is a mental illness.  Those who suffer with an ED have issues with anxiety, depression, and obsessive compulsive disorder.  Medication can help alleviate these symptoms and get the person back onto the road to recovery.  

Dr. David S. Rosen, along with other scientists, believe that heredity and genetics play a role in whether or not your child develops an ED . A family history of depression, schizophrenia, and other psychological disorders come into play. People who are rigid or are anxious are more likely to develop this illness. [7]

If an Anorexic Would Eat, Then She Would Be Cured

Misconceptions About Eating Disorders

While nutrition is certainly something an anorexic's body is craving because the brain cannot function properly without food, just eating will not solve the problem.  She has a need to control something in her life, and how much food she ingests is something she can manage and conquer.

Those suffering with this mental illness have such a distorted body image that psychological medical treatment is necessary, in combination with proper nutrition, to recover.  

This Book is a Companion to "Help Your Teenager Beat an Eating Disorder".

Treatment Manual for Anorexia Nervosa, Second Edition: A Family-Based Approach
Amazon Price: $75.00 $16.98 Buy Now
(price as of Feb 25, 2016)

All Anorexics and Bulimics Are Super Skinny

Long before a person with anorexia achieves the look of extreme thinness that is associated with the disease, there are many months of red flags waving in the air.  This illness does not happen overnight....there are signs and symptoms.  Unless you are aware of what they are, you can easily miss them.

For example, teenage girls, by definition, are moody creatures.  Parents blame hormones running wild, but it can also be that your daughter is starving and that makes her even moodier.  Another sign that your child may have an ED is that suddenly, she wants to be a vegetarian or asks if foods are "good" or "bad".  

A person with anorexia may have "food rituals",  like not permitting foods to touch, combining foods that don't normally go together, or moving food around the plate but not really eating anything.  You may see an increase in the amount of time devoted to exercise. There is weight loss, but it does not stop.  

Anorexia IS NOT about losing weight...it is about a distorted body image. [7]

A bulimic may start to make trips to the bathroom right after eating.  You may hear noises coming from the bathroom, and the child who is vomiting may not clean up all signs of their purge.  You may find boxes of laxatives hidden in the garbage.   Bulimics are purging their feelings...it is about self-esteem.


The Author Has Successfully Recovered From Both Anorexia and Bulimia

Once Intensive Residential or Outpatient Treatment is Over, the Person With An Eating Disorder is Cured

Does My Daughter Have an Eating Disorder?
Insurance companies in America do not like to pay for long term treatment of anything.  Many times, people who suffer from ED are dismissed from their residential or intensive outpatient programs before they are ready. If the person does not meet the medical criteria according the insurance company checklist, then they are out of luck-even if the treatment center provides anacdotal proof that more treatment is still necessary.

While those with an ED cannot be dismissed from their facility without another support team ready to pick up where the treatment center left off, in some ways it is like starting all over again, as new relationships with professionals must be established.

Recovery from an Eating Disorder

Recovery from any kind of disorder is a long process. For every step forward, there will be two or three backwards.  It can take years to be fully recovered, not months like the insurance company claims.

These common myths and misconceptions leave many parents alone in the dark, unable to share with family and friends.  Their child and they are viewed in a harsh light, as if they have some kind of control over the situation...they do not.

Only when others stop judging, learn the facts about this mental illness, and give those a shoulder to lean on, can these myths be dispelled.

For more information, please read:

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of an Eating Disorder?

Do Parents Cause Eating Disorders?

Eating Disorders and Family Relationships



Mar 13, 2013 10:09am
Hi--I think this is an important subject and one that you handle in a great way. 2 BIG thumbs from me and a rating. Good job!~!!
Mar 13, 2013 10:42am
Thank you, Marlando. It is a topic that I hold dear to my heart...it affects so many girls and women. Like an addiction, it has to be dealt with one day at a time.
Mar 13, 2013 11:43am
Great article "mommymommymommy" when I was in practice I worked with some teenagers with eating disorders. It is one of the hardest mental health issues to treat. There are so many underlying issues--those you mentioned quite well. And I really like your comment about the "perfect storm" because it is both internal and external.
Mar 13, 2013 11:56am
Weianow, thank you for your comment and your understanding. I know all too well about this perfect storm, and people who do not know how serious it is simply do not understand. It is life and death...literally.
Mar 13, 2013 5:41pm
Hormones kick in. Breasts grow. It can be a tough time when you are in your teens and you get a little chubby. Eat well, get lots of exercise and your body will be beautiful (Mom insight)

Mar 13, 2013 6:51pm
Something snaps in the mind of a person with an eating disorder. It is a kind of addiction that must be treated as such. If mommy hugs could heal, so many children and adults would be cured much faster.
Oct 24, 2013 7:41am
One can hope, but for families who have children who relapse-and this happens often-it can financially ruin them. But saving your child's life has no price.
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  1. "Do I Have an Eating Disorder?." renfrewcenter.com. 12/03/2013 <Web >
  2. "FAQ's." maudsleyparents.org. 13/03/2013 <Web >
  3. Dr. Kenneth L. Weiner "The Truth Behind Common Eating Disorder Myths  ." huffingtonpost.com. 20/01/2012. 13/03/2013 <Web >
  4. "Do I Have an Eating Disorder?." www.renfrewcenter.com. 12/03/2013 <Web >
  5. Mayo Clinic Staff "Binge-eating Disorder." mayoclinic.com. 3/04/2012. 12/03/2013 <Web >
  6. "Do I Have an Eating Disorder?." www.renfrewcenter.com. 12/03/2013 <Web >
  7. "9 Deadly Myths About Eating Disorders." www.cbsnews.com. 12/03/2013 <Web >

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