Eating disorder myths busted

Eating disorder myths busted

Summary of the Myths:
1. You can tell by looking at someone if they have an eating disorder
– weight loss criterion for Anorexia Nervosa in the DSM-V
– binge-eating
– eating disorders can occur anywhere along the BMI spectrum
2. Families cause eating disorders
– families are in fact often our best allies in treatment
3. Mothers are to blame
– a number of books across disorders blame mothers (ANOREXIA Nervosa, schizophrenia, autism etc.,)
4. Eating disorders are a choice
– believes it is due to anomalous biology (dieting may have begun as a result of seeing a magazine cover/picture of a model, but not sustained by it
5. Eating disorders are the province of white upper-middle class teenage girls
– EDs cut across race, gender, class lines
6. Eating disorders are benign
– serious
– suicide attempt rate is high
– Swedish figures for suicide attempts:
AN – restrictive type – 8%
AN – binge/purge type – 13%
AN/BN combined type – 17%
BN- 13%
BED – 14%
Purge disorder – 11%
Non-ED: 2%
7. Society alone is to blame – i.e. caused by media
– runs in families
– highly heritable
– genetic role
– environment is important
– gene/environment interaction is important
8. Genes are destiny
– environment interactions (nurture/nature)
– environment can have negative & positive influences
– Negative environmental influences can increase risk, such as
– sports with a focus upon weight or looks
– Dieting
– Modelling
– Teasing/bullying & not necessarily about their appearance or weight
– Obsessed with appearance
– positive environmental influences:
– Models for healthy eating
– Separating body esteem from self esteem
– Role models for body respect
– Family involvement
– Supportive peers Who value who you are not how you look

9. Eating disorders are for life
– tricky – patients often like to say they are in recovery to stop them slipping back into old ways of thinking, feeling & behaving – need to respect & validate a client’s wishes
– data shows EDs are treatable at any stage of life
– for AN, nutritional rehabilitation & weight gain are just the first stage in treatment

Source: National Institute of Mental Health @


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