It is estimated that 1.6 million people across the UK are affected by an eating disorder - yet there are still so many inaccuracies surrounding anorexia and bulimia. In an attempt to clear up some of the most common misunderstandings, below we separate the fact from the fiction.
Myth: Eating disorders only affect girls and young women.
Fact: Although statistics reveal that eating disorders do have an overwhelming affect on young women, it is thought that current figures underestimate the number of men who are suffering. Whilst official figures show that one in ten sufferers in Britain are men, researchers believe the actual figure could be as high and three in ten.
People with eating disorders tend to be very secretive about their condition and men with eating disorders have been found to be the most secretive of all which is part of the reason why the problem is obscured.
Myth: You will know if someone has an eating disorder because they will be very thin.
Fact: With anorexia, the most obvious sign is that someone is suddenly losing large amounts of weight due to lack of food or excessive exercise. With other disorders such as bulimia and binge eating however, it can be much harder to spot the symptoms. Both bulimics and binge eaters can in fact maintain their weight which is why friends and family are often shocked to hear about the disorder when the person seeks help.
Myth: Eating disorders aren’t serious - once the person starts eating again they’ll be fine.
Fact: Eating disorders are very serious and can be potentially life-threatening. Despite common misconceptions, they are not a lifestyle choice or a diet ‘gone too far’. A person with an eating disorder experiences severe disturbances in their behaviour because of harmful distortions in their thoughts and emotions. Highlighting the severity of these conditions is the statistic that reveals that the mortality rate for people with eating disorders is the highest of all psychiatric illnesses.
If you’re worried about an eating disorder in yourself or someone you know, please feel free to visit our Eating Disorder Treatment Page for more information about the signs, symptoms and treatments available.