When it comes to eating disorders, there are plenty of incorrect assumptions. Let’s debunk three of them.
Myth: Eating disorders occur only in teenage, rich white girls.
This myth perpetuates stereotypes and can discourage people from getting treatment as they think they do not have an eating disorder as they do not fit the mold.
When people think of eating disorders, the image is often of an emaciated, white teenage girl in the hospital hooked up to feeding tubes. In fact, eating disorders are varied in how they present in a person, and they certainly do not “look” a certain way.
Eating disorders occur in all cultures, ethnicities, age groups, genders, and socioeconomic groups. Eating disorders do not discriminate.
So, no, eating disorders do not “look” a certain way, and you cannot tell by looking at a person if they for sure have an eating disorder.
Myth: People need to be at a certain BMI to be healthy.
While insurance companies often use BMI as one of the criteria for hospital-based treatment, most eating disorder professionals agree that this is an outdated way to diagnose eating disorders. That is because a person can be at any weight or within their weight range and still have an eating disorder. BMI was also not designed to measure a person’s overall physical or mental health, and it does not consider factors such as age, gender, ethnicity, and body composition.
Many people assume that people with thin bodies are healthy merely because they are thin. This is incorrect as anyone of any size can have health problems, and you can’t assume that just because someone is a certain size they are healthy or unhealthy. Check out the Health at Every Size (HAES) community to learn more about this concept.
Myth: My patient’s labs came back fine; they are not medically in danger.
This is one of the most dangerous assumptions. Any eating disorder can be deadly, and a person doesn’t necessarily have to look sick in order for the eating disorder to take their life. Your patient’s health can change drastically and quickly with an eating disorder, even if labs initially show up OK.
Eating disorders are not straightforward, and it’s best to consult with a trained eating disorder professional when coming up with a treatment plan for your patient.
Melissa Geraghty is a psychologist and can be reached on Twitter @mindfuldrg.
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