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Eating disorders are incredibly complicated. Unfortunately there are so many myths about eating disorders that get in the way of getting the help that is needed. They are hard to understand even when you have them. Whether we like to admit it or not, our culture and exposure to biased and branded media have influenced our understanding of reality.

4 Myths About Eating Disorders:

1. Eating Disorders Have a Body Type.

They don’t. There are six eating disorders I can think of on the top of my head, each showing itself in a different way.

Anorexia. Bulimia. Binge Eating. Orthorexia. Diabulimia. OSFED.

The eating disorder body that most people think of is dangerously skinny and skeletal. Which is sometimes just the picture of a severe case of anorexia. That’s a picture of one diagnosis. The reality is that there isn’t a stereotypical body that represents eating disorders. Someone with an eating disorder could have a six pack of abs, or maybe a bit of pudge around the gut. They could even be fat. There is no one body type for eating disorders.

2. Eating Disorders Don’t Have a Face.

The most deadly part of an eating disorder is silence. Emotions and behaviors around food are very easy to hide or justify. Most of the time people don’t really notice other people’s emotions around food unless they are super sensitive to it. In the same way that depression doesn’t look any one way, neither do eating disorders. An ice cream cone could cause severe anxiety, but you may never know. A binge episode could have taken place last night, and you would never have guessed. Those with eating disorders don’t let it show that easy.

3. Eating Disorders Have Specific Behaviors.

If there are more than six different diagnoses for eating disorders, and at least 30 million people in the U.S. struggle with them, wouldn’t they look different from case to case? Starvation isn’t the only symptom of an eating disorder. In many cases there may not be any exercise involved at all. Binging and purging aren’t just eating a lot of food and throwing it up. Behaviors around an eating disorder diagnosis looks different from person to person. There are no two cases that are identical.

4. Eating Disorders Can Be Easily Explained. 

There is no one known cause of eating disorders. Most cases have co-occurring mental illnesses, some don’t. Some people have been controlling their behavior around food as long as they can remember. Others only started obsessing about body image and food intake after a relatively stressful or traumatic event. Genetics may play a role, but so does environment. Just because someone had the most amazing childhood with the best parents in the world doesn’t mean that an eating disorder will discriminate against them.

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Eating disorders are complicated. Here are some myths that you believe about eating disorders because society has convinced you they are true.

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