Myths & Stereotypes: Eating Disorders....Part 2

Myths and Stereotypes - Eating Disorders: Part 2

Eating disorders are not a ‘diet’. They are a mental health illness that can impact upon all areas of life and have negative, distressing and often life-threatening consequences.

Eating disorders are characterised by having a difficult, negative or dysfunctional relationship with food and eating. This changes thoughts and feelings about food, and, consequently, the person's behaviours and habits surrounding food and eating.

Neither are eating disorders about beauty, appearance or looking a certain way. In fact, they often have little to do with food, but lots to do with gaining control and finding a way of coping with life. Thoughts, feelings, emotions, memories and experiences are all controlled through one’s relationship with food. Control or non-control of eating and food provides a way of also coping with often painful, difficult or distressful thoughts, emotions, experiences or memories: by blocking them out, denying them, or dealing with them via one’s relationship with food and eating.

For those with eating disorders, life seems easier to manage through the control or non-control of food. Eating disorders can often develop in response to what is going on inside of us. We can use food, eating, weight and exercise as a way of dealing with these powerful feelings and emotions.

Eating disorders may be caused by a combination of social, psychological, biological, interpersonal, genetic and environmental factors (see left box).

Eating disorders can affect anyone and can become life-threatening if not treated appropriately. It is difficult to determine how many people actually experience persistent and debilitating food and eating difficulties.

We will never know the exact extent of this problem for various reasons. This is also partly due to the secretive nature of eating disorders and the high level of denial often involved, especially during the early stages of the illness.

To be continued....part 3

Alexandra O'Brien © 2011, 2018


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