Saturday 3 March 2018

Misconceptions about Eating Disorders

For Eating Disorders Awareness Week, Mary talks about the common misconceptions of eating disorders students face.
- Mary

Students have the stereotype of having an unhealthy lifestyle: eating too much fast food, not eating enough fruit and veg, and drinking too much alcohol which adds to students’ already growing pressure to perform. Eating disorders are also stereotyped, creating stigma and common misconceptions about them. Having an eating disorder at university, combined with the pressure of being a student can be overwhelming, which is why we need to banish the common misconceptions about eating disorders so that it is easier for people to open up about them. 

1. People who have eating disorders are thin

People of all body shapes can have an eating disorder. In the media, people with eating disorders are generally portrayed as very underweight but this isn’t an accurate portrayal of reality. People’s weight fluctuates, therefore just by looking at someone, you cannot judge whether they have an eating disorder. You can be underweight, overweight, or have a ‘healthy’ weight and have an eating disorder.

2. Eating disorders are about vanity

Yes, a part of eating disorders relate to the way someone sees themselves. But this isn’t only about physical appearance – developing an eating disorder is not something somebody does for the sake of how they look, but for other reasons such as a way to control something in their life.

3. Men don’t get eating disorders

Anyone can get an eating disorder. Whilst it is true that high proportion of people who suffer from eating disorders are young women, particularly those going through key transition stages in their life, such as from school to adult life etc., eating disorders occur across all genders (and ages, for that matter), male eating disorders shouldn’t be overlooked. this has led to the common misconception that men or people identifying as a gender which doesn’t include female do not experience eating disorders. 

4. There are only a couple of eating disorders

Wrong, there are lots of different types of eating disorders beyond anorexia and bulimia, and symptoms vary from person to person. Just like the flu, there are lots of different types and some symptoms or characteristics affect certain people more than others. 

5. It’s all in the mind, there are no physical symptoms

There are multiple physical symptoms and they vary between types of eating disorders, and they can be very dangerous. 

These are just five examples of the misconceptions about eating disorders. This is why it is important to increase awareness in universities. If more people are aware of eating disorders and how they affect individuals, there is more chance that people will be willing to open up about them. The more people know, the more support that can be offered from coursemates, housemates and friends at university. 

As a student, certain situations can make it more difficult to deal with problems like this. It is important to take time out of your busy university schedule to check your wellbeing. One of the biggest things that makes it hard for people to open up about eating disorders are the common misconceptions which further increase stigma. Therefore, starting the conversation at your university is an important way to increase understanding and decrease stigma for your fellow students. Students and young people are the next generations in society, and by opening up conversations, we can effect change, making our society an easier place to talk about, accept and overcome eating disorders. 

Hi, I’m Mary. I recently graduated from The University of Nottingham. During my time there I was part of Nottingham’s Student Minds committee; it was here that I found out about Student Minds’ blog. Mental health is still something very stigmatised and not always talked about. So, I thought I’d try my hand at starting conversations about it and if they help just one person, it’s a step in the right direction.

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