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9 truths about eating disorders and tips for parents

ANYONE can develop an eating disorder, any age, race, nationality, socioeconomic status; eating disorders do not discriminate. Eating disorders are serious but treatable mental illnesses. There are several types of eating disorders. These can include: anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) and others. The quicker the behaviors are addressed, the more likely there is to be a positive outcome. There are many misconceptions about eating disorders. Below are nine TRUTHS about eating disorders to help anyone who might be facing one. If you think you or someone you love may have an eating disorder please visit  for more information. 

Truth #1: Many people with eating disorders look healthy, yet may be extremely ill.

Truth #2: Families are not to blame, and can be the patients’ and providers’ best allies in treatment.

Truth #3: An eating disorder diagnosis is a health crisis that disrupts personal and family functioning.

Truth #4: Eating disorders are not choices, but serious biologically influenced illnesses.

Truth #5: Eating disorders affect people of all genders, ages, races, ethnicities, body shapes and weights, sexual orientations and socioeconomic statuses.

Truth #6: Eating disorders carry an increased risk for both suicide and medical complications.

Truth #7: Genes and environment play important roles in the development of eating disorders.

Truth #8: Genes alone do not predict who will develop eating disorders.

Truth #9: Full recovery from an eating disorder is possible. Early detection and intervention are important.

Parent Tips

If your child or a loved one is struggling, here are some tips to help.

1. BREATHE. You are not alone. You are surrounded by a team who will walk beside you on this journey. There is hope and healing.

2. ASK FOR/ACCEPT HELP. Eating disorders are exhausting for everyone in the family. You did not ask for this to happen, and you did not cause the eating disorder. Use your energy wisely and ask for help. Say yes to those offering to help, you would do it for them, let them do it for you.

3. UNITED FRONT. The best outcomes will happen when all caregivers are on the same page. Be confident and consistent together. Talk in private whenever possible and plan ahead for difficult situations.

4. STAY FIRM. By following the recommendations of the eating disorder team you are doing the best thing you can do for your child right now. Your main job is to make sure your child gets the nutrition they need to nourish their body and love them through it.

5. KEEP SOME NORMALCY. The eating disorder tries to take power wherever it can, including your normal routine. Keep doing the things your family enjoys. If you order pizza every Friday night, or go out to eat on the weekend, keep doing it. Be prepared that outings may take more planning and be more stressful.

6. COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR TEAM. You are an important team member. Share with the eating disorder team what is going well and what is not. If you have questions, want clarification, or don’t agree with something, let the team know.

7. STAY IN THE PRESENT. Focus on today, think about tomorrow when it comes. Eating disorders love blame, guilt, and staying in the past. Strive to stay in the present.


For more information or resources related to Eating Disorders, please visit the Children’s Mercy website.