Anorexia is an eating disorder indicated by a distorted perception of weight resulting in abnormally low body weight and constant fear of gaining weight. People with anorexia are concerned about their weight so much that they use extreme efforts to control weight gain, which may negatively impact their lives.
People with anorexia limit weight gain by restricting their food intake, inducing vomiting after eating, or misusing laxatives and enemas. Others try to lose weight by exercising more than they should but never being satisfied despite how much weight they lose.
Many misconceptions about anorexia can delay seeking help, which can worsen the condition. You can understand more about eating disorders by learning these common myths about anorexia.
One must be dangerously thin to have anorexia
Many people assume that people with anorexia are skinny because it is associated with low weight. Although low muscle density, low body weight, and a gaunt appearance are associated with anorexia, that is not to say naturally thin people have anorexia.
The fact is that anorexia can affect even people with average body weight. The diagnostic criterion for the disorder is low body weight relative to the appropriate body weight of the person, depending on their age, gender, and physical health.
People suffering from anorexia don’t eat
Another assumption is that people with anorexia do not eat or eat very little food necessary for survival. While extreme food restriction and eating less than the body requires are some symptoms of anorexia, that doesn’t mean the person doesn’t eat.
The truth is, people with anorexia eat but practice unhealthy food avoidance and extreme calorie restriction. For example, they tend to avoid foods dense in fat or substitute foods with non-caloric beverages such as coffee. Such behaviors can lead to undernourishment and a lack of energy and the necessary nutrients to keep the body functioning optimally.
Anorexia only affects women
Another myth we need to debunk is the assumption that anorexia doesn’t affect men. Although the condition is more common among women, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect men. The fact is that many men suffer from anorexia even unknowingly.
Anorexia in men tends to manifest as body dysphoria or obsession with having lean muscles rather than being extremely thin. Social pressures also affect men, and some are likely to be dissatisfied with their body weight and shape, leading to anorexia.
Anorexia is a cry for attention
People who don’t know about eating disorders often assume that anorexia is a cry for attention or a choice one makes. But the fact is that anorexia is a psychological disorder associated with low self-esteem, self-doubt, and extreme fear of gaining weight. It is an eating condition linked to maladaptive thought patterns and compulsions.
The thought patterns often come from within and require counseling and therapy to unwrap. In most cases, compulsive behaviors can be addictive, whereby the person cannot easily stop even if they tried. Therefore anorexia is not a choice but a psychiatric condition that requires professional help.
Anorexia is a stage one can outgrow
Anorexia tends to affect people in their teenage years, which explains why many believe it is associated with adolescence and societal pressure linked to body weight and shape. Although the chances of getting anorexia in adulthood are low, that doesn’t mean it is a passing stage one can outgrow.
The fact remains that anorexia is a mental health condition that one is unlikely to resolve without professional help. It is associated with maladaptive behaviors and problematic coping strategies. Consequently, it can go into remission without treatment and reappear after some time.
The final take
Eating disorders such as anorexia are psychological problems that require professional treatment. Luckily, treatment options including nutrition counseling, family-based therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy can be life-saving for people with the condition. The disorder can worsen without treatment, so it is best to seek help soon if you or your loved one suffers from anorexia.