Misconceptions About Eating Disorders That Need to Be Wiped Off the Face of the Earth

The following phrases and ideas are wildly inappropriate and hurtful in regards to eating disorders, which are serious but treatable mental illnesses that can affect people of every age, sex, gender, race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic group. No one knows exactly what causes eating disorders, but a growing consensus suggests that a range of biological, psychological, and sociocultural factors come together to spark an eating disorder. These insulting phrases are commonly utilized due to ignorance and hostility towards these ailments, and other mental health disorders in general. Negative commentary such as the following is unhelpful, unnecessary, and dangerous, and is only present in this article as a guide for what NOT to say and do. Here are 6 misconceptions about eating disorders that need to be wiped off the face of the Earth:

“You must be so vain and self-centered, obsessing over weight and food like that”

What part of psychological disorder is not making sense to you? Disorders of the mind are intensely complex and multifaceted, and sometimes even have to be treated with medications that alleviate some of the symptoms, primarily the crippling anxiety that stems from science things like an imbalance of the neurotransmitter serotonin.

And you definitely cannot just wish for your neurochemistry to magically behave itself with the flick of a light switch just because someone else isn’t satisfied. For pop culture reference, it was revealed in the season one Thanksgiving episode of Gossip Girl, “Blair Waldorf Must Pie!," that Blair struggles with bulimia nervosa, and it is implied throughout the series that she developed this disorder partially due to overwhelming stress and anxiety. She later reveals that she takes an SSRI antidepressant to help alleviate her symptoms.

Moreover, having an eating disorder is DEFINITELY not about fulfilling a narcissistic desire for compliments and praise. It’s not a pretty or fashionable "Miss Popular, It Girl" habit; it’s an all-consuming, paranoid, nightmare, twist of pain and distress. Blair Waldorf, nor any other human, real or fictional, does this for attention. Continuing your ignorance and hypercritical snark MAKES YOU vain and self-centered.   

“But I love eating how do you not like to eat?”

Again, with the self-centered-ness. This is not about you! Eating and drinking in general, or even limited to certain food groups or dishes, can cause intense anxiety in people, possibly even due to sensory processing issues. Psychologically and physically struggling to handle ingesting certain foods is a trademark characteristic for a multitude of disorders such as, but not limited to, more commonly known illnesses such as anorexia and bulimia.    

“You’re so crazy for doing *insert maladaptive behavior*”

Ten points to you for empathy, a**hat. Actually, the only time being called crazy is appropriate is when Dustin vocally announced his approval of Elle flipping cars and breaking arms with her mind in Stranger Things.  

“Eating disorder people are supposed to be skinny WHY AREN’T YOU SKINNY?”

Although dramatic weight fluctuations, particularly swift drops in weight, characterize a plethora of eating disorders and are oftentimes incredibly deadly as a direct result of this rapid weight loss, unhealthy weight gain can be a dangerous, deadly struggle as well. Among individuals with BED, up to two-thirds are obese; people who struggle with binge eating disorder tend to be of normal or higher-than-average weight, though BED can be diagnosed at any weight. So gaining weight due to an eating disorder is just as terrifying as losing weight - types of complications of binge eating disorder include cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, neurological, and endocrine malfunctions. NONE of these are simple and easily treatable. ALL have devastating consequences.  

“But only cisgender white women have eating disorders and you aren’t that so you are discrediting their experience”

Although media and art commonly paint a certain subset of girls as victims of eating disorders, they are most definitely not the only type of people who struggle. ANYONE can develop a disorder, not just Blair Waldorf, and indulging in this White Girls Only Club myth is counterproductive, exclusionary, and insensitive. All guys, gals, and non-binary pals need help, treatment, and support when it comes to eating disorders.

“You are a bad feminist for having an eating disorder because the patriarchy tells women to be skinny, and is definitely the root cause of eating disorders, so why are you listening to them?”

Get the hell out. Door’s over there.

“YOU ARE SO OVER DRAMATIC, GAWD, THERE ISN’T ANYTHING WRONG WITH YOU, YOU ARE FINE”.

Thank you for shunning someone who trusted you enough to confide their crippling anxieties regarding emotional and physical wellbeing with you. You really solved everything by downplaying the severity of their worries. Gold star to you.