Eating Disorder Misconceptions

“You have to be super thin to have an eating disorder.”

The size of someone’s body does not necessarily indicate whether or not they have an eating disorder, OR which eating disorder they have. While some people with eating disorders ARE super thin, the vast majority are closer to a healthy weight. (Closely related misconception: “You can tell if someone has an eating disorder by looking at them.” The reality: You can’t.)

“Eating disorders are a choice.”

Eating disorders are NOT a choice. Yes, choosing to take a bite or not take a bite, to purge or not to purge, to binge or not to binge- those are choices. But the eating disorder itself, 100% not a choice. It’s a mental health disorder, it serves a function, and is so much deeper than what is seen on the surface.

“If someone would “just eat,” they could recover.”

This is kind of related to the ‘so much deeper’ point. Eating disorders are maintained by distressing emotions, intense fear, desire for control, trauma, relational conflict, low self esteem, and a million other contributing factors. Solving a symptom does not solve the root of the problem. That being said, sometimes weight restoration has to be the first step towards recovery before the deeper work can be done. It doesn’t solve it, but it can get someone to the point that they can cognitively engage in recovery.

“Symptoms are always obvious.”

Often times, people with eating disorders are really good at hiding it. They may make excuses for their weight gain/loss, avoid eating in front of others, or avoid being in situations where food is present. If you didn’t notice the symptoms in your loved one, give yourself some grace. Amazing parents, friends, and spouses miss it ALL the time. It happens. The important thing is how you support them once you DO know.

“Recovery is linear. When someone starts treatment, they consistently keep getting better until they are recovered.“

Recovery is much more like a roller coaster than a straight line. It might be 2 steps forward, 1 step back. There might be loops that feel like you’re going backwards or upside down. There WILL be days that it feels impossible, days that they slip, days that they just don’t care. This is normal, and part of the process. Recovery is 100% possible, but it won’t be perfect, and it won’t be linear.

What other misconceptions are out there?





Kristen CairnsComment