There are also many myths and misconceptions surrounding bulimia – it is a deeply misunderstood condition. Below is a summary of the most common myths, and the facts:
MYTH: Bulimics are underweight.
TRUTH: Bulimics are often slightly overweight, or what is considered a ‘normal’ weight. It is even less possible to diagnose bulimia by weighing the patient than it is for anorexia.
MYTH: Bulimia and anorexia are interchangeable.
TRUTH: Bulimia and anorexia are two distinct illnesses. While they may borrow specific behaviours from one another, they manifest themselves in totally different ways, physically and psychologically.
MYTH: Bulimia is ultimately about losing weight.
TRUTH: Bulimics might be labouring under the false idea that their condition will lead to weight loss, but this is also accompanied by feelings of inadequacy, guilt, shame and self-loathing. It is these emotions which ultimately fuel the disease.
MYTH: Bulimia is less dangerous than anorexia.
TRUTH: While anorexia statistically has a higher mortality rate than bulimia, bulimia can be deadly (most often bulimia-related deaths are caused by a heart attack, resulting from the strain vomiting places on the heart). There are also a myriad of serious physical and psychological symptoms.
MYTH: Bulimia is about vanity.
TRUTH: Bulimia is akin to self-harm. It develops as a coping mechanism for difficult emotions and is fuelled by low self-esteem. While a bulimic might act confident, it is simply that: an act.
MYTH: There is a certain type of person who is more likely to suffer from bulimia.
TRUTH: Bulimia affects people of all ages, races, walks of life and of both genders.
The myths stated above can prevent individuals, families and professionals from identifying an eating disorder and, in turn, seeking appropriate treatment. I am a great believer that education and awareness are the strongest remedies for misinformation. By promoting a better understanding of eating disorders throughout the general public and the healthcare professionals, it can help support early diagnosis, effective treatment and a life time of recovery for the sufferers.