It is easy to see why anorexia could seem like an alien concept for others. As is the case with most things, it’s difficult to fully understand something one has never personally experienced. It is, however, also disappointing to see that it continues to become a favorite subject of magazine gossip and media jokes.
Anorexia is no joke — in fact, some medical professionals have even dubbed it the deadliest psychiatric disorder. Myths about eating disorders abound because people who do not share the experience fail to fully grasp what it means. Some of these myths stem from observations of outsiders, others develop from off-color comments of peers, and more still get their notions from outdated studies. Here are some of the most common anorexia myths:
Myth 1: A person with anorexia never gets hungry.
People with the disorder feel hunger just as much as the next person. They, however, choose to ignore their body’s needs. You may offer an anorexic person some food and they may claim that they’re full, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that their body isn’t in desperate need of nutrition.
Most people with anorexia love food; in fact, they love eating. They don’t have “cheat days” like a person who follows a diet plan, however. So, if they start to give in to the perceived temptation, it could lead to binge-eating. The disorder could then develop into bulimia.
It’s also untrue that when a person is thin, they automatically have anorexia. While a gaunt body is one of the symptoms of anorexia, being thin isn’t always synonymous to having the disorder. A person can be thin for plenty of reasons: a terminal illness for instance, or a virus that makes them eliminate soon after consumption.
Myth 2: “I’m fat” is a constant thought among people with anorexia.
When people with anorexia look in the mirror, they don’t see a fuller version of themselves. They of course see how the illness has taken a toll on their body: the protruding spine, the papery skin stretched over prominent ribs — the can see what’s in front of them. They may, however, feel the dangerous need to further whittle their body down: the gap between the inner thighs must be wider; their tummy has to be flatter, the list goes on.
Individuals with the illness do not intend to morph their body beyond recognition: their persistent desire to pare their body down further is, nonetheless, part of their “journey” towards achieving their ideal version of their physical self.
People with anorexia rarely ever come up to a friend or family member and say, “I need treatment for anorexia.” For some, realization comes abruptly: after they put on a dress that used to hug all the right curves on their body but now just hangs off of their gaunt frame, for instance. Others, meanwhile, come to a realization after another near-death experience caused by their strict, self-imposed diets occurs. Most of the time, they are aware of their condition, they know they need help, but they rarely make the first step to their recovery.
In the past, professionals deemed this eating disorder a life sentence. New research, however, suggests that people with anorexia may overcome their illness over time. Until then, people can only continue working towards raising awareness of the disorder, so “outsiders” can stop treating it flippantly or as a source of entertainment.