Written By: Katie Schipper
Eating Disorders are incredibly dangerous and deeply misunderstood diseases. They claim the lives of every gender, religion, social class, age group, culture, and race. There’s no one who’s immune to an eating disorder, just like there’s no one who’s immune to addiction. The idea that eating disorders are a choice was discussed in Part I. In Part II, we’ll talk about the common misconception that eating disorders are reserved for white, privileged women.
Misconception: Eating Disorders Only Affect White Adolescent Girls from Wealthy Families
The idea that someone chooses to have an eating disorder and therefore, should easily be able to stop, is pretty dangerous. Equally as dangerous is the idea that only rich, white girls suffer from eating disorders. The danger, of course, lies in the fact that this leaves out thousands and thousands of men and women who suffer from eating disorders. This is like assuming a crack addict must be a black man from the inner city. These types of myths help perpetuate deadly misinformation.
First things first, there are reasons this misconception has gained so much momentum. Like most lies, it started out with a kernel of truth. Eating disorders usually (usually, not always) develop in the early teens. Based on current research, women tend to be at a higher risk for developing eating disorders. That’s pretty much it for the true part. The reality, as always, is much more complicated and covers much more ground.
Many More Are At Risk
Women aren’t the only group at a higher risk for developing an eating disorder. Other groups include: people who engage in certain sports, those who experience acute stress, those who experience intense stress, and those with other mental or physical illnesses (including addiction). Even these groupings shouldn’t overshadow the much more vital truth – anyone is at risk. Eating disorders can occur at any age, in any income family, to any gender identity, to any race…the list goes on and on.
Taking It Too Far
Another trait shared between eating disorders and addiction is the idea that individuals have an imaginary “line” they cross. This means that what may start as just a diet, or an attempt to lose a little weight, can develop into an eating disorder. The same can be said of what initially may be just comfort food or the occasional overindulgence. What might start as small changes in behaviors and habits can easily (and quickly) develop into something very dangerous. Unfortunately, as is true with addiction, by the time someone notices these changes, the line has often already been crossed.
Dispelling lies and misinformation is essential for eating disorder treatment and recovery. The more accurate information that’s spread, the more likely under-representing groups will be to seek and receive help. To believe that any group is exempt from developing an eating disorder is to deny them the chance to recover.