3 Media Myths About Eating Disorders
By Chinh Tran--Twitter, Facebook, magazines & TV keep us informed and connected. But it’s important to take everything with a grain of salt. Especially when it comes to the portrayal of eating disorders.
Here are some of the common myths about eating disorders and the underlying facts that are often not discussed in mass media.
Myth #1: Anorexia and bulimia are the most common eating disorders. Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, or EDNOS, is the diagnosis given to patients that exhibit features of disordered eating but do not meet all the criteria for anorexia nervosa or bulimia. EDNOS is actually the most common form of eating disorders seen in outpatient settings. However, it is rarely referred to in the media and celebrities diagnosed with EDNOS don’t make the front page.
Myth #2: Disordered eating and body image issues only affect teenagers.
Teenagers are not the only age group that struggle with developing a healthy body image. Eating disorders are being diagnosed at younger ages and with higher frequency. Additionally, a significant number of patients in eating disorder clinics nationwide are now middle-aged adults.
Myth #3: Eating disorders are mainly a mental health issue and can be easily overcome.
Television and magazines fail to illustrate all the complications that can arise from disordered eating. The media often trivializes the disease when in reality, eating disorders have severe medical consequences (i.e. heart problems, bone loss, organ failure, etc.) and the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder. Recovery is possible, but overcoming an eating disorder is often a long process that involves many layers of support, types of treatment, and various medical providers. Editors and television producers conveniently leave that out.
Since almost everyone is a consumer of popular media outlets, it’s important to recognize the “Hollywood spin” that is put on everything, including eating disorders. Body image issues are not “as seen on TV,” They are complex in nature and they don’t discriminate--people of all ages, races, and sexes struggle with these illnesses.