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MYTHS ABOUT ANOREXIA AND BULEMIA BY LYNN CRILLY


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espite increasing aware- ness about eating disor- ders among the general population and health care


professionals, there are still so many misconceptions that surround these serious illnesses, which have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. These myths are potentially very damaging to everyone affected by an eating disorder (including car- ers, the public and professionals), as the consequence of these myths mean that eating disorders are so woefully misunderstood by many.


Below is a summary of the familiar “facts” that are often quoted in rela- tion to some eating disorders. They are, as we have discovered, myths that prevent us from really under- standing the illness.


ANOREXIA


MYTH: If an anorexic gains weight, they are recovering.


TRUTH: Anorexia (and, indeed, any other eating disorder) is a mental ill- ness, like depression. While there are physical symptoms, it is the mind- based issues that need to be ad- dressed. Remember: if you treat the mind, the mind will treat the body.


MYTH: Anorexia is ultimately about control.


TRUTH: A lot of sufferers refer to “control” because that is how their condition appears to them. However, from an outside perspective, they have lost control totally.


MYTH: Anorexics have always ex- perienced a significant and trau- matic incident.


TRUTH: Some anorexia arises in response to trauma, some does not. This varies from patient to pa- tient. A significant or dramatic past incident is by no means a cer- tainty.


MYTH: Anorexics see a “fat” per- son when they look in the mirror.


TRUTH: Often, anorexics are aware of how thin they have be- come, they simply do not consider it to be thin enough. (This myth arises from the fact that, often, anorexics pick and focus on one perceived “flaw”, such as their stomach or thighs, and obsess upon it, rather than seeing their body as a whole.)


MYTH: Anorexics always try to conceal their weight loss.


TRUTH: Some anorexics will wear baggy clothes in a bid to hide their


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weight loss. Others will try to draw attention to their slimmer frame. Again, this varies from patient to pa- tient.


MYTH: Anorexics only eat lettuce leaves.


TRUTH: An anorexic will restrict their food intake. However, they might al- low themselves a very small amount of chocolate each day. The food they choose is irrelevant; it is the restric- tion that is important.


MYTH: Anorexia only affects teenage girls.


TRUTH: Anorexia and other eating disorders affect both genders and all age ranges, races and social back- grounds.


MYTH: Anorexics are classic over- achievers and/or perfectionists.


TRUTH: Just as anorexics come from all walks of life, they also have a vari- ety of different personalities.


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