Think You Know What an Eating Disorder Is? Don't Be Surprised If You're Wrong

A lot of what people know about eating disorders comes from "common knowledge." Unfortunately, common knowledge isn't always correct, or it may give you an incomplete understanding of an issue. Eating disorders are often misunderstood or oversimplified, which is why people can go for years not recognizing the signs in their loved ones, or themselves.

Complex Mental Illness

A common misconception about eating disorders is that they're a choice. The truth is, you can't choose an eating disorder any more than you can choose to hear voices or suffer from delusions. Eating disorders are incredibly complex and usually are a combination of many different factors. Some of the factors are environmental, such as abuse or social pressures. Other factors are beyond the sufferer's control, such as genetics and brain chemistry.

Most Fatal Mental Illness

To this day, popular entertainment still holds up extremely thin people as the standard for beauty. Magazines and Instagram stars still use photo manipulation to make unrealistic body shapes look attractive and desirable. This is sad considering how dangerous eating disorders are.

Of all the mental illnesses, eating disorders are the most fatal. About a third of sufferers die from the condition, and another third never fully recover.

Not Just About Restricting or Purging Food

Severe food restriction is a common symptom of eating disorders but is not a given. Not every sufferer starves themselves. The most common eating disorder is binge eating disorder, and most sufferers are obese.

Some people with eating disorders do binge and, subsequently, purge to keep weight off. They may do this by forcing themselves to vomit, but it's not the only method. Some may abuse laxatives, exercise excessively, or fast for days after indulging.

Eating Disorders Can Affect Anyone

When envisioning a person with an eating disorder, most people think of a rail-thin young female who starves herself to show off her svelte figure. But eating disorders don't discriminate.

Sufferers may be of any gender, any age, any race, class, or culture, and—yes—can be of any weight. Even the extremely fit and muscular or morbidly obese can have an eating disorder.

Those suffering from an eating disorder rarely flaunt their figures, either; in fact, many try to hide the damage the disease is doing to their bodies to avoid detection.

The bottom line—there is no poster child for eating disorders. Don't let looks fool you.

Sources: Healthline, The Guardian, Yahoo

Photo: Pexels

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