Eating Disorder Myth Busting
Updated: Mar 23
This week (Feb 27-Mar 5) is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. Eating Disorders have the second highest mortality rate of all mental health disorders, surpassed only by opioid use disorder. 28.8 million Americans experience an eating disorder at some point in their lives. The National Eating Disorder Assocaition (NEDA) Help Line has experienced a 107% increase in contacts since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, right in line with the increase in traffic of the Suicide Prevention Hotline and other mental health resources. Bottom line, it’s a problem, and the prevalence of ED in athletes is particularly high.
Spreading awareness about ED’s and mental illness of all kinds is important to me, having experienced Anorexia Nervosa and Depression/Anxiety myself. Early detection and intervention, as well as an abundance of support is key to recovery. There are so many myths and misconceptions about Eating Disorders, so I hope to dispel a few of those so that you can best support yourself or a loved one who might be struggling.
MOST COMMON EATING DISORDER MYTHS
1. People who struggle with ED’s are thin and underweight.
Similarly to other mental illnesses, ED’s don’t have a “look” and can occur at any weight, level of function, and activity level. There are several categories of ED’s, all characterized by different symptoms and behaviors. ED’s specifically reference a damaged relationship to food that interferes with one’s life and ability to function.
2. Eating Disorders are only about food.
Poor relationship with food is a symptom of ED’s, but oftentimes not the cause. The direct cause for ED’s is unknown, but likely involves biological, cultural, and psychological factors. Controlling food and weight often stems from lack of control in other aspects of an individual’s life, and can be a trauma response as well. ED’s often occur in tandem with other mental illnesses, such as depression, anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and PTSD.
3. Eating Disorders are a choice.