The portrayal of mental health issues is often distorted in the media and wider society. Misconceptions about who is affected and why are not only hurtful to those who have an eating disorder, but also dangerous to those who might not realise they have a form of an eating disorder because they don’t fit the stereotype. We have collated common myths and questions and eating disorders. If you have more questions about these, please get in touch. If you want us to add a specific question or myths, let us know.

Eating disorders are not a lifestyle choice, they are complex mental health conditions that can have a serious impact on someone’s life and in some cases can be fatal. Eating disorders have a longterm effect on both mental and physical health.

Research has found that 20% of people with eating disorders will die prematurely from their illness. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness. Bulimia is also associated with severe medical complications, and binge eating disorder sufferers often experience related medical complications.  Eating disorders can leave people permanently chronically ill even though they have ‘mentally’ recovered.

In every single case, eating disorders severely affect the quality of life of people experiencing one and those that care for them.

Many people with eating disorders go to great lengths to hide, disguise or deny their behaviour, or many don’t recognise that there is anything wrong. Often they can feel like they are not ‘unwell’ enough or not deserving of help. It often takes several years for someone to seek help for an eating disorder. On average, it takes around seven years to recover from an eating disorder. Everyone with an eating disorder deserves an equal level of seriousness no matter what age they are, no matter what type of eating disorder they have or how long they have had an eating disorder.

Physical manifestation is not representative of psychological distress. Anyone of any size can have an eating disorder and several diagnoses of eating disorders do not require the presence losing weight or food restriction, namely Binge Eating Disorder. Most people with eating disorders, even anorexia, are not underweight- 85% of those with an eating disorder are not underweight. People who are not underweight deserve to be treated with the same level of seriousness and severity, therefore the idea that you can tell by looking at someone that they have an eating disorder can be invalidating.

Eating disorders can affect anyone of any race, gender, social class, age or sexuality. Research suggests that 25% of those with an eating disorder are male. Research also suggests that members of the LGBTQI+ community are up to 3x more likely to have an eating disorder. Studies also show that working class people are just as likely to have an eating disorder as their middle class peers.

The idea that only white middle class young girls have eating disorders stems from majority of the existing research being based in that area. Women going through key transitions is a significant risk group. However, anyone can have an eating disorder and new research is ongoing regarding men and eating disorders, eating disorders in people of colour and LGBTQI+ community’s experience of eating disorders. Such research is very important as eating disorders may present differently depending on the different aspects of someone’s life.

There is no evidence that particular parenting styles cause eating disorders.  Family and friends play a crucial role in the care, support and recovery of people with eating disorders. Eating disorders also do not have one specific cause.

Yes, they do. Anyone can develop an eating disorder, regardless of age, sex, cultural or racial background. Even though the people most diagnosed with eating disorders tend to be young women, particularly between the ages of 15 and 25, around 25% of people diagnosed with an eating disorder are men. It is also likely that many men are living with an undiagnosed eating disorder, either because they are hesitant to seek help or do not know they have a problem.  Our support groups are for all genders – please do not hesitate to seek help on the basis of your gender.

Seed Eating Disorders has compiled a leaflet specifically for men experiencing an eating disorder.

Absolutely. There are a variety of ways to help you recover and beat your eating disorder. Even though recovery might be a tough and long process, it is possible. Recovery is not a linear process and any step backs or difficulties you may have does not mean recovery is impossible. Every step you make towards recovery, no matter how big or small, is a great achievement and you should be proud of yourself. Furthermore, everyone with an eating disorder will have different needs and experiences. Therefore, recovery approaches might therefore differ as well. If something really worked for someone else with an eating disorder, it may not work for you, and thats completely okay.

To some, recovery means that they never have an eating disorder thought again; it is fully in the past. For others, the thoughts might still be there occasionally but they have learned to cope much better and handle these thoughts in a balanced way that no longer largely impacts their day-to-day life.