What is the truth about eating disorders?


Many myths surround the causes of eating disorders, who develops one, and the seriousness of the illness. Often these myths increase the stigma and may prevent those needing help from seeking treatment.

Let’s take a look at a few truths about eating disorders.

Many people may look healthy but may have a serious eating disorder.

Many people suffering from an eating disorder do not look sick, and they can experience an eating disorder at any weight. Although those with eating disorders are often portrayed as emaciated, you can’t tell someone has an eating disorder based on their appearance. Anorexia is an eating disorder that is characterized by limiting caloric intake to prevent weight gain, which causes individuals to appear extremely thin. However, studies have found that larger individuals also suffer from anorexia, although it is a less likely diagnosis because of cultural prejudice against obesity. Someone who is suffering from bulimia, which is characterized by bingeing and purging, may appear healthy, despite the damage being done internally.

Parents are not to blame.

The Academy for Eating Disorders, the American Psychiatric Association, and the National Eating Disorder Association have published guidelines that indicate parents are not the cause of an eating disorder. While genetics can play a significant role in the onset of an eating disorder; it not the only cause. Additional factors such as psychological, behavioral, biological, and social can heighten the risk of an eating disorder. Eating disorders develop differently in people, and there is no way to guarantee the prevention of the illness.

Eating disorders are not choices, but a mental illness.

Eating disorders are not a choice; they are a serious mental illness that affects over 30 million individuals at some point in their lives. The American Psychiatric Association classifies five different types of eating disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 5th Edition (DSM-5): anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder (BED), avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID), and other specified feeding or eating disorder (OSFED).  Our society has normalized the often-complicated relationship between food and the body, and many assume eating disorders are a food-related issue. However, eating disorders are complex and unique to each person.

Eating disorders can be life-threatening.

Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. Additionally, up to 20% of those with anorexia will die as a direct result of their disorder, and research has shown that those with bulimia and OSFED had equally high mortality rates. In addition to the serious physical, psychological, and social complications that can arise from an eating disorder, research has shown a direct link between eating disorders and suicide attempts. If left untreated, eating disorders can result in electrolyte imbalances which can cause heart attacks, strokes, intestinal distress, brain damage, and multi-organ failure.

Eating disorders affect people of all genders, ages, races, ethnicity, body shapes and weights, sexual orientations, and socioeconomic statuses.

Anyone can struggle with an eating disorder – any age, race, gender, financial status, and size. Eating disorders are also often thought to be “only in young females,” however, 13% of women over the age of 50 engage in disordered eating.  Many people who have an eating disorder will suffer in silence or are ashamed or embarrassed to get help. If left untreated, many of those who struggle with an eating disorder as a child or teen will continue to struggle into adulthood.

Full recovery from an eating disorder is possible. Early detection and intervention are important.

Recovery from an eating disorder is possible, but many have found that the stigma that surrounds mental illness can prevent timely diagnosis and proper treatment. Research shows that 60% of those with an eating disorder make a full recovery. A multi-faced treatment approach that includes medical care, mental health care, nutritional therapy, and counseling contributes to a successful recovery.

At Magnolia Creek, we provide a safe, therapeutic environment that supports our clients as they explore the contributing factors surrounding their eating disorder and we help them challenge the thoughts and behaviors that are preventing them from living their life to the fullest. Using focused, individualized care,  our therapists, dietitians, and medical staff provide regular therapeutic sessions to help clients identify treatment goals to achieve and maintain the desired change. Our program integrates experiential therapy and activities such as art, psychodrama, exercise, and movement, and recreational outings to build confidence, challenge distorted thinking, and help clients develop effective coping skills through experience and metaphor.

We work together with our clients to create an individualized treatment plan that not only nourishes the body but strengthens the spirit. We emphasize acceptance, validation, and empowerment at every stage of treatment, and we are committed to helping our clients recover from, not just manage, their eating disorder.

For more information on how Magnolia Creek can help you or your loved one, call us today or complete our contact form.



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