Eating disorders are among the most prevalent forms of mental illness in the world. They have been the subject of numerous studies and profiles in an attempt to understand what drives these disorders. However, to this day, they main widely misunderstood and surrounded by stereotypes and misconceptions that only make it more difficult for treatment programs for disorders such as anorexia nervosa to be accessed and availed of.

There are actually three main kinds of eating disorders. The first, anorexia nervosa, involves a person refusing to eat out of fear of gaining weight. The second, bulimia nervosa, involves cycles of binge eating — whereupon the individual consumes a large amount of food — and purging, or forcibly vomiting the food consumed. Binge eating in itself is also an eating disorder, wherein a person rapidly consumes a large number of calories in a very short period of time.

Eating disorders may be accompanied by additional efforts taken to lose weight, such as excessive exercise and diet pills. These pose additional dangers to the body aside from those already generated as a result of eating disorders. Hence, eating disorders can be quite deadly, and thus need to be taken seriously by all parties involved.

Here are some reasons eating disorders need to be treated as serious issues by the medical community, and society in general:

1. It does not solely affect those who are underweight.

It is common to assume that those afflicted with an eating disorder will look underweight or emaciated. However, people with eating disorders can actually come in all shapes and sizes. A person might be of normal or average weight yet still struggle with an eating disorder.

It is important that this is recognized so that people will be more encouraged to seek treatment. It is common to shrug off or ignore the signs from some people simply because they appear healthy, but doing so can have devastating consequences.

2. It is not limited to teenage girls.

Popular culture has portrayed eating disorders as being exclusively found among young, teenage girls who are struggling with body image and identity. However, this could not be further from reality. While they may be more prevalent among younger women, eating disorders affect both girls and boys of all ages, races, and body shapes. Moreover, it is not true that those with an eating disorder are vain and care solely about their appearances.

The causes of eating disorders are much more complex. Some studies have shown that genetics and environmental factors to be largely influential as well. Furthermore, not everyone who has an eating disorder is motivated by losing weight to fit an ideal body standard. No one is immune to having an eating disorder, and there is no one cause for it either.

3. It may have more serious effects.

If left untreated, eating disorders can do great harm to the body, both physically and emotionally. A lack of nutrition can lead to long-term bone loss, heart disease, and organ damage, while instances of eating disorders are also positively correlated with death by suicide. This makes addressing eating disorders very important, as doing so may help save a life.

4. It can be dealt with.

Although it may seem like an impossible task, eating disorders can be dealt with through proper intervention. It is possible for a person to make a full recovery from an eating disorder thanks to advancements in treatments and knowledge. However, for this to happen, an intervention must happen as soon as possible in order to effectively deal with the effects the eating disorder has had on the body and mind.