Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses that affect millions of people worldwide. Despite their severity and prevalence, much about eating disorders remain unknown or misunderstood. As research continues to clarify our understanding of eating disorders, it can be helpful to focus on the truths behind these illnesses.
Here are some basic truths about eating disorders- what they are, who they affect and what causes them:
- You can’t tell by looking at someone whether they have an eating disorder. Many people are seriously sick with an eating disorder but may look healthy.
- Families are not to blame. No one person can cause an eating disorder. There are usually multiple factors contributing to the development of an eating disorder including biological and environmental factors.
- Families can be an important base of support for someone suffering from an eating disorder.
- Eating disorders are not a choice. They are serious, biologically influenced mental illnesses. People with eating disorders often share similar personality traits and thinking styles. This temperament can contribute to the development of an eating disorder.
- Eating disorders do not discriminate! Eating disorders affect people of all ages, genders, races, ethnicities, sexual orientation and socioeconomic status.
- Eating disorders are associated with an early death. Having an eating disorder increases one’s risk for suicide and/or severe medical complications.
- Both genes and environment play important roles in the development of an eating disorder. Individuals genetically predisposed to eating disorders are most vulnerable to be impacted by cultural influences (pressure to look a certain way and dieting). Genes alone do not predict who will develop an eating disorder.
- Full recovery from an eating disorder is possible. Early detection and intervention are important. The sooner someone is diagnosed and receives treatment, the greater the chances are treatment will be effective.