Food Behavior and the Myths Surrounding It: Eating Disorders

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Mental disorders are represented by a diverse group of illnesses that cause disturbances in a person’s thinking, behavior, and emotional state. There are eating disorders, which are much more prevalent than people think. There is a misconception around eating disorders that deviations from external indicators result from lifestyle. However, this is fundamentally untrue, as evidenced by the physiological and psychological underpinnings of the disease, which develop the myths surrounding it.

The Physiological Basis of the Disease

The digestive system must maintain relatively constant nutrients in the body. Eating disorders arise from the incorrect regulation of feelings of hunger and satiety. These feelings are due to changes in the activity of CNS structures, the food center, embedded in the nuclei of the hypothalamus. The state of the food center depends on impulses from various peripheral and central receptors. In developing an eating disorder, the hunger and satiety centers are often inhibited or conversely active to varying degrees, leading to negative alimentary habits. Neurophysiology tries to find ways to influence hunger and satiety centers to promote patient recovery gently.

Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and compulsive overeating are the most common eating disorders. Diagnostically, anorexia nervosa requires low body weight, intense fear or behavior that prevents weight gain, and impaired perception of weight or shape. Bulimia nervosa criteria include repetitive overeating and actions to counteract the weight gain and an exaggerated self-perception: weight or shape. Compulsive overeating involves repetitive overeating without inadequate compensatory behavior. People with eating disorders often report extreme dissatisfaction with their bodies, anhedonia, anxiety, and difficulty tolerating negative emotions, although this is not required for a diagnosis.

The physiological manifestations of eating disorders are accompanied by changes in all human systems as the nerve centers stop working correctly. Most likely, people with eating disorders have abnormalities in appetite regulation, which limit their ability to maintain control when eating (Burmester, Graham, & Nicholls, 2021). It is likely that there are abnormalities in the quantitative and qualitative composition of the hypothalamic nuclei. In particular, the ventrolateral nuclei responsible for feeling hunger may receive a bit of electrical signal and not conduct it. Humoral systems, represented by insulin and cholecystokinin, also play a significant role. They form the feeling of hunger, and when they are lacking or weakly active, the connection between the gastrointestinal tract and the brain is disrupted.

Psychological Underpinnings of the Disease

Since eating disorders are related to brain activity, it was evident that there are psychological bases for developing the disease. It is worth pointing out that food addictions can form and become patients’ companions. They can be of three types: urgent, emotional, and restrictive. Extrinsic is accompanied by dependence on imposed social beliefs and advertising activities: for example, stereotypes around the figure or excessive pressure to buy unnecessary products. Emotional addiction is the most common: in this case, overeating or malnutrition is associated with stressful situations that lead to a lack of control over food. Restrictive habits are related to exquisite self-limitations formed to maintain personal food stereotypes or family-imposed behaviors.

There are many perspectives on why eating disorders occur. For example, from the point of view of behavioral genetics, hereditary factors play a role in the emergence of eating disorders. In the psychodynamic approach eating disorders are primarily explained by the presence of impossible archaic complexes. For supporters of the theories of relations, the apparent reason for eating disorders is unconstructive and conflictual in nature of ties with family members. In recent years, a new trend has emerged that closely links eating disorders with various kinds of chemical addictions, such as alcoholism.

Despite many theories explaining the mechanisms of the emergence, formation, and development of eating disorders, most scientists share the general idea that diseases are complex, resulting from genetic, sociocultural, and psychological factors. Psychological predictors may include low self-esteem caused by social pressure, depressive states and mania; feelings of loneliness and irritation; and lack of control over one’s life (Burmester, Graham, & Nicholls, 2021). Often the disorder is associated with impaired mechanisms of assessment and analysis of one’s needs, i.e., cognitive errors. They lead to a breakdown in the connection between satisfaction and understanding, making stressful overeating or hunger necessary. In addition, improper parenting also plays a significant role. The child has not developed a sense of food availability: for example, it has to be earned, or there has always been little.


Eating disorders continue to grow despite the availability of food and medical care. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, about 28.8 million people in the United States are affected by an eating disorder. They also claim that this group of illnesses is one of the predominant mental health deaths. About 10,000 deaths a year are thought to be due to an eating disorder, which correlates with a high risk of suicide (AHAD). In addition, AHAD touches on the economic impact, with more than $50 billion going to waste.

Statistics state that diseases affect all populations because eating disorders are primarily related to societal, psychological perceptions. Among the three major types of disorders, binge eating disorder prevails, accounting for 0.62 percent of the U.S. population: bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa occupy 0.19 and 0.12 percent, respectively (Eflein, 2022). However, anorexia nervosa is the predominant type of mortality: related deaths are 12 times higher than deaths from all causes among women ages 15-24 (South Carolina Department of Mental Health). Such data point to meaningful differences between societal influences on forming a healthy psyche.

AHAD provided statistics related to racial disparities and the prevalence of eating disorders, including BIPOC individuals – black, Native, and people of color. The organization claims that BIPOCs are less likely to be diagnosed or treated for eating disorders. In addition, black teens are 50% more likely to have bulimic behavioral traits (AHAD). Differences in assessment of body perception have also been demonstrated, with Asian students being more likely to be dissatisfied with their bodies and more pessimistic about obesity and related symptoms.

The prevalence of the disease also varies among genders: women are sicker, which is associated with the stereotypes formed in society. Galmiche et al. (2019) state that typical manifestations of eating disorders are found in women, while men tend to have atypical compulsive symptoms. The article also reports different ratio views: some say a mean deviation of 0.3; others report 0.5 or higher (Galmiche et al., 2019). This is probably due to the high stigmatization of eating disorders in men and little attention to women who are obese or obese as a consequence of the disease.

Anorexia is a particularly alarming disorder nowadays because adolescent girls and very young women are most susceptible to it, as they strive to pursue fashion for an image of a “slim woman.” Most often, this disorder first appears at pubertal age in girls. In the chronic course of anorexia, patients have a localized fear of normal eating, even a slight increase in body weight and reaching the average necessary to remain healthy. At the heart of this eating disorder are an adolescent developmental conflict and a realistic assessment of one’s physiological condition without realizing the latter.

The prevalence of eating disorders by age generally varies: although the first peaks are in adolescence, the disease is not tied to it. The data support the idea that adolescence and adolescence are critical periods for the initial development of ED, with almost all (95%) first-onset cases occurring at age 25 in the modeled cohort modeled from birth to age 40 (Ward et al., 2019). The authors state that the mean annual prevalence in males and females is about the same at 21 years.

Myths and Facts

Myth: Eating disorders affect only teenage girls and young women.

Fact: Girls are indeed more likely to have this disorder in their diagnosis, but it affects all populations: to the fact that men, in general, have a higher prevalence in some indicators.

Myth: Average or overweight people cannot have an eating disorder.

Fact: Eating disorders are determined by many factors, and weight is only one. For example, bulimia is more familiar with above-average body weight, and overeating accompanies thin people.

Myth: People with overeating cannot pull themselves together and go on a diet.

Fact: Using diets cannot “cure” an eating disorder. Traditional calorie-restricted diets can cause overeating, even in not having an eating disorder.


Thus, an eating disorder is a severe pathological condition accompanied by physiological and psychological changes. On the physiological side, the centers of hunger and satiation are disturbed; and on the psychological side, the relationship of satisfaction about eating is disturbed. Despite the many myths surrounding eating disorders, statistics show that more than 25 million Americans have the disease. In addition, women begin to suffer from it earlier, and deaths from anorexia nervosa are higher than deaths from any other cause. There is great concern among the Asian and Nigerian races because of the alleged disorder.


Burmester, V., Graham, E. & Nicholls, D. (2021). Physiological, emotional and neural responses to visual stimuli in eating disorders: a review. Journal of Eating Disorder, 9(23). Web.

Eflein, J. (2022). Prevalence of eating disorders in the U.S. from 2018 to 2019, by condition. Statista, Web.

Galmiche, M., Déchelotte, P., Lambert, G., & Tavolacci, M. P. (2019). Prevalence of eating disorders over the 2000–2018 period: A systematic literature review, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 109(5), 1402–1413. Web.

National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. Eating disorder statistics. AHAD, Web.

South Carolina Department of Mental Health. Eating disorder statistic. DMH, Web.

Ward, Z.J., Rodriguez, P., Wright, D. R., Austin, S. B., & Long, M. W. (2019). Estimation of eating disorders prevalence by age and associations with mortality in a simulated nationally representative US cohort. JAMA Netw Open, 2(10). Web.

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PsychologyWriting. (2023, March 6). Food Behavior and the Myths Surrounding It: Eating Disorders. Retrieved from


PsychologyWriting. (2023, March 6). Food Behavior and the Myths Surrounding It: Eating Disorders.

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"Food Behavior and the Myths Surrounding It: Eating Disorders." PsychologyWriting, 6 Mar. 2023,


PsychologyWriting. (2023) 'Food Behavior and the Myths Surrounding It: Eating Disorders'. 6 March.


PsychologyWriting. 2023. "Food Behavior and the Myths Surrounding It: Eating Disorders." March 6, 2023.

1. PsychologyWriting. "Food Behavior and the Myths Surrounding It: Eating Disorders." March 6, 2023.


PsychologyWriting. "Food Behavior and the Myths Surrounding It: Eating Disorders." March 6, 2023.