Manhattan Wellness


Three-tier Dropdown Menu
Three-tier Dropdown Menu
Three-tier Dropdown Menu


Book Now


mw editorial

Addressing Stigma & Misconceptions About Eating Disorders

March 5, 2024

Woman sitting in a window sill in Manhattan. Addressing the stigmas and misconceptions around eating disorders is key to recovery and awareness.

Eating disorders, like many other mental health vulnerabilities, are incredibly stigmatized. Stigma and shame lead to negative consequences as opposed to contributing to healing. That’s why it is paramount to unpack stigma, as these misunderstandings can perpetuate misinformation and harmful rhetoric. Promoting empathy, understanding and support for individuals with eating disorders are healthy ways to challenge stigma. Additionally, creating an environment of acceptance and compassion is essential for those struggling with these conditions to seek help and embark on their path to recovery.

Below are some common, unfactual misconceptions about eating disorders and how they contribute to misinformation about mental health: 


Woman walking down a Brooklyn street. Eating disorders are not a one size fit all thing. Therapy can help overcome the stigmas and misconceptions.

Many people assume that individuals suffering with eating disorders are always extremely thin. However, it’s important to understand that eating disorders can affect all body sizes, and some may have a normal or higher body mass index (BMI) while still struggling. The physical consequences of eating disorders can vary widely, and focusing solely on weight can lead to misdiagnosis and inadequate support for those who are suffering. It should be noted that only the diagnosis of anorexia nervosa requires a low BMI as a criteria; however, many individuals struggle with anorexia for months before reaching this dangerously low weight, so it is irresponsible and incorrect to only rely on a thin appearance when recognizing the signs of an eating disorder. 


Many people believe there’s only one eating disorder. Restrictive food intake is what comes to mind when thinking of eating disorders. However, many types of eating disorders exist—some of which have nothing to do with body image concerns. Each disorder requires specific treatment and attention, so it’s imperative to know the signs and understand the available treatment options. These are the varying types of eating disorders: 

  • Pica — This is an eating disorder characterized by the persistent consumption of nonnutritive, nonfood substances over a period of at least one month. While this disorder does not involve body image concerns, it is extremely important to be treated for pica as ingesting nonfood items can lead to serious health risks.
  • Rumination — This eating disorder involves the repeated regurgitation of food, which is then either re-chewed, re-swallowed or spit out. Rumination’s danger lies in that it inhibits the body from obtaining nutrients, but it does not involve body image concerns. 
  • Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) — ARFID is similar to pica and rumination in that it is not driven by body image concerns. It revolves primarily around the sensory elements of food (i.e., its texture, taste or smell). Since individuals with ARFID are unwilling to eat a variety of food, this can lead to poor growth and serious health deficiencies. 
  • Anorexia Nervosa — Anorexia is a serious and potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by an intense fear of gaining weight and a distorted body image that leads to self-imposed starvation. People with anorexia typically have an overwhelming desire to be thin and have a persistent and restrictive dietary pattern, often leading to severe malnutrition.
  • Binge Eating Disorder — People who suffer from binge eating disorder feel a lack of control over their eating and engage in recurrent episodes of consuming large amounts of food in a short period. These episodes, known as binges, are typically marked by eating much more rapidly than normal, eating until uncomfortably full, consuming large amounts of food when not physically hungry, eating alone due to embarrassment and feeling guilt, shame, or distress afterward.
  • Bulimia Nervosa — Individuals with bulimia engage in a cycle of binge eating followed by compensatory behaviors to rid the body of the excess calories consumed. This could be purging by vomiting or with laxatives or engaging in excessive exercise. People with bulimia typically have a distorted body image and an intense fear of gaining weight, which drives their behaviors.
Woman working and drinking coffee in Brooklyn. Eating disorder myths need to be busted.


People tend to trivialize eating disorders, but it is essential to recognize how potentially life-threatening and dangerous they are. Acting as though eating disorders are no big deal can perpetuate stigma and hinder individuals from seeking the necessary help and support they need to recover. Early intervention and proper treatment are critical for individuals struggling with these disorders to achieve physical and emotional well-being. Encouraging empathy, understanding and open conversations about eating disorders can help reduce the stigma and support those affected on their journey to recovery.


Many people stereotype individuals affected by eating disorders, not realizing that people of all walks of life suffer from these disorders. Eating disorders do not discriminate based on age, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status or any other demographic factors. For example, many people think that only women struggle with eating disorders, when in fact, in the US alone, eating disorders will affect 10 million males at some point in their lives. Stereotyping can perpetuate misunderstanding and make it difficult for those struggling with eating disorders to seek help. By acknowledging that anyone can be affected and offering support and resources more broadly across a spectrum of diverse individuals, we can contribute to a more inclusive and compassionate approach to addressing these complex mental health challenges. 


Woman in New York City reading with a cup of coffee in in her hand. Eating disorders can be lifelong, but therapy can help.

There is a myth that eating disorders plague affected individuals for their entire lives without possibility of recovery. While that’s unfortunately true for some people, there are many evidence-based treatments that lead to recovery. With the right combination of therapy, support and professional guidance, individuals can make significant progress and improve their relationship with food and their bodies. It’s important to challenge the misconception that recovery is impossible, and instead, emphasize the steps that lead to that recovery: early intervention and the resilience that many people with eating disorders demonstrate on their healing journey toward a healthier, happier life.

Eating disorders, like many other mental health issues, result in stigma and misunderstanding. The negative consequences of stigmatization only serve to further isolate and harm individuals who are already grappling with the challenges of these disorders. The path to recovery is possible, and it begins with empathy, education and support. Challenging the misconceptions surrounding eating disorders leads to the dismantling of the barriers that prevent those affected from seeking the care they need. By fostering an environment of acceptance and compassion, we can promote healing, encourage early intervention and ensure that individuals with eating disorders know they are not alone on their path to recovery.

If you are struggling with an eating disorder and want help, our providers at Manhattan Wellness will help you find the resources to face these challenges and achieve recovery. If you are ready to make the changes you want in your life:


At Manhattan Wellness, we understand that with all the messages we receive from the world, therapy can be scary. From social media, movies, and even people close to us, it can be hard to know what to expect in therapy sessions. That’s why our female therapists want to support you in building the confidence you need to reach your highest potential. Let us help you create an empowering therapeutic process that will benefit all aspects of your life, from personal to professional. If you are interested in beginning counseling for women:

  1. Submit a Contact Form or Email Us at
  2. Learn More About Our Team and Our Areas of Expertise
  3. Begin Seeing Yourself in a Whole New Light!


Our therapists understand that building confidence takes time and that other issues can come up along the way. To better support you, we offer a variety of services to cater to your individual needs. The therapy services we offer are Therapy for Self Esteem, Anxiety Treatment, and therapy for dating and relationship issues. As well as therapy for college students, support for maternal mental health, body image therapy, and so much more. Are you feel like you’re not living the life you want and need to make changes? Let’s talk about it.

Skip to content