Myths about eating disorders

Posted: 02/03/20

A black and white image of a person standing on weighing scales. On the scales i a piece of paper which says 'caution: this cannot measure your self-worth'

Every year in the UK we have a week dedicated to raising awareness for eating disorders. Why? Because eating disorders are serious mental health problems – they’re not lifestyle choices, or fads. It is this kind of myth that Eating Disorders Awareness Week hopes to address. We’d like to use this week to start more helpful conversations around eating disorders.

Myth: eating disorders are a choice. Eating disorders are not a personal choice. They are very complex mental health disorders without one specific cause, and each person’s story will be different. The development of an eating disorder can be affected by a person’s social environment as well as biological and psychological factors.

Myth: eating disorders are only for girls. Younger women are at the highest risk of developing an eating disorder. But an eating disorder can impact any person, from any background, and can start at any age. We need to take eating disorders seriously in everyone – there is no one ‘face’ of an eating disorder.

Myth: eating disorders are just about attention-seeking and vanity. Whilst there is a link between not liking your body and the development of an eating disorder, this isn’t the case for everyone. It definitely doesn’t mean that it is just an attempt to gain attention. People suffering from eating disorders often go to huge lengths to hide their bodies from others.

Myth: Families cause eating disorders. Families do not cause eating disorders. Sometimes the eating disorder can manipulate a whole family’s behaviour to help it continue, in a way that the family don’t even intend. Yet, this shows us how essential families are to someone’s recovery, not how much they are to blame.

Myth: All people with eating disorders are seriously underweight. Some people with eating disorders can have a very low weight, but not everyone will. Weight is one element of an eating disorder. It is important to help someone get back to a healthy weight, but getting there doesn’t mean they have recovered. Nor does it mean that someone at a healthy or above-average weight cannot have an eating disorder.

Myth: You’ll have an eating disorder for life. Full recovery from an eating disorder is possible. We very much believe that we can work with young people and their families to help make this their reality.

Join in the conversation by connecting with the Cumbria Community Eating Disorders Team on Instagram and using #EDtheconversation.

If you feel that you, or a loved one, is suffering from an eating disorder please contact your GP.
You can also call the BEAT charity’s eating disorders helpline on 0808 801 0677 between 12pm–8pm during the week, and 4pm–8pm on weekends, or email