The stereotypes for eating disorders indicate that people with disordered eating habits are malnourished and skinny, however, the full spectrum of eating disorders goes far beyond these preconceived notions. In fact, your friend or family member may be struggling with an eating disorder and you may have no idea.
People Can Look Healthy
It is common for people to think that eating disorders only affect those who are underweight, but eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes. Just because someone looks healthy, doesn’t mean they are eating right or taking care of their bodies.
Families Are Not to Blame
Eating disorders are not caused by dysfunctional families or their eating habits. In fact, eating disorders have more to do with the individual’s mental health and their insecurities than the pressures of those around them.
If you’ve recently learned that a loved one has an eating disorder, do not blame yourself. At this time, your loved one needs nonjudgmental support and nothing but love.
An Eating Disorder is a Health Crisis
To some, an eating disorder may seem like a minor roadblock, one that’s easy to get over, but because these disorders affect a person’s psychological well-being, it isn’t that simple. Eating disorders often co-occur with other mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, and substance abuse.
Eating Disorders Are Not a Choice
Eating disorders are not a choice. They are serious mental illnesses that can have life-threatening consequences. Disordered eating may start as a choice to lose weight or fit into new clothes, however, once the habits take over, it can become a subconscious issue.
Eating Disorders Can Affect Anyone
Eating disorders do not discriminate. They can affect people of all genders, races, ethnicities, and socioeconomic backgrounds. There’s truth to the notion that young women are the highest-risk group for developing eating disorders, but that doesn’t mean that men — or any other demographic group — are immune.
There is an Increased Risk for Suicide
There’s no shortage of the health risks that eating disorders can carry. The Academy of Eating Disorders released notes that the mortality rate for eating disorders is second only to opioid use disorder when it comes to psychiatric illnesses.
Using data from a sample of more than 36,000 respondents, researchers looked at the lifetime prevalence of suicide attempts in adults with an eating disorder history. They found that the prevalence of suicide attempts was 24.9% among those with a history of anorexia, 31.4% of those with a history of bulimia, and 22.9% of those with a history of binge eating disorder.
Full Recovery is Possible
Anyone who’s tried to change their eating habits knows that it isn’t as simple as just flipping a switch. The same goes for people with eating disorders who are trying to revert to healthier eating habits.
Recovery from an eating disorder is a long and difficult journey, but it is possible. With the help of a treatment team that specializes in eating disorders, along with the support of family and friends, anyone can make a full recovery.
Eating disorders are serious mental health illnesses that come in all shapes and sizes. If you or someone you know is struggling, don’t hesitate to reach out for help.