As a sufferer of Anorexia Nervosa, I am prone to the stigma and common misconceptions which currently surround eating disorders (and other mental health illnesses, which will be mentioned in later blog posts!) We live in a modern day society, where technology and the world around is improving each and every day. Yet, disappointingly, our knowledge on eating disorders goes untouched and ignored and with eating disorders on the rise, it’s time to not only raise awareness. But to put an end to the stigma which currently surrounds eating disorders, the stigma which is preventing millions of people from reaching out for the help they need and deserve.
‘YOU HAVE TO BE UNDERWEIGHT TO HAVE AN EATING DISORDER’
This is FAR from the truth. In fact, you can be ANY WEIGHT and be suffering from an Eating Disorder. Eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes.Why? Because eating disorders are mental illnesses, not physical ones. Which means that they are mainly about the voices and thoughts in the sufferers head and the physical side is just one of the many signs of eating disorders. You can be underweight, a healthy weight and overweight and still have an eating disorder. The sufferers weight/appearance does not in any way, shape, or form determine how poorly they are or how much help they are entitled to.
‘EATING DISORDERS ARE ONLY SUFFERED BY FEMALES’
False false falseee. Eating Disorders DO !!! NOT !!! DISCRIMINATE!!! which simply means that anybody can suffer from an eating disorder. Any age, gender, race during any point of their livesand so on. Why? Because eating disorders do not care about the people they are hurting and manipulating – they care about making the sufferer’s life a living hell. Boys and men are just as likely to suffer from an eating disorder, these aren’t feminine diseases.
‘YOU DON’T LOOK LIKE YOU HAVE AN EATING DISORDER’
Eating disorders are MENTAL illnesses, which I will continue to mention until the day everybody begins to realise it. Therefore, they do not have a look. You can not see if somebody has an eating disorder just by simply taking a look at them. Unless you’re a therapist or a sufferer yourself, you cannot possibly determine whether or not somebody is mentally well. A HEALTHY BODY DOES NOT EQUAL A HEALTHY MIND. Eating disorders are primarily about what’s going on inside the sufferer’s head, not what the suffer appears to look like. This is such a hurtful and offensive comment which I’ve witnessed being said to others.
‘ANOREXIA IS THE ONLY EATING DISORDER’
Yawn. There are so many eating disorders which are all as severe and as life-threatening as each other. Including Anorexia, Bulimia, EDNOS, BED (Binge-eating disorder) and orthorexia. People associate ed’s with anorexia alone, when in reality, we live in a world with a variety of illnesses which people turn a blind eye too. Just because the sufferer does/doesn’t have anorexia, it doesn’t mean their illness or battle is more severe than what other people are going through. ALL EATING DISORDERS ARE IMPORTANT AND ALL SUFFERERS ARE VALID AND SHOULD BE GIVEN THE HELP AND SUPPORT THEY NEED AND DESERVE.
‘HEALTHY WEIGHT EQUALS BEING FULLY RECOVERED’
If only it was that ‘easy’. A healthy body does NOT equal a healthy mind. Just because weight has been restored to a healthy weight, it doesn’t mean that the eating disorder is no longer there, or as severe. In fact, lots of people struggle more mentally when they’ve reached a healthy weight because they begin to feel disgusted in themselves or as though they have ‘failed’ or ‘gotten fat’. Recovered is when you feel happy and content with your body, your eating disorder may still be there, but you learn to live with it and manage the difficulties it throws your way and your mindset is much more positive and relaxed, often with quieter thoughts and less disordered voices.
‘YOU’RE EATING, YOU MUSTN’T HAVE AN EATING DISORDER’
Comments like this really make my blood boil because they are rude and unncecessary and will only add to people’s struggles. Eating disorder sufferers STILL !!! EAT !!! We just struggle with what we do eat, because of the feelings of guilt and failure. The common misconception is that people with eating disorders don’t eat at all – whereas that is far from the truth. People suffering from an ED just find it difficult to sustain a healthy/normal relationship with food and have scary, manipulative and controlling thoughts telling them what to eat and not eat. Giving into the thoughts is easy and it feels impossible to ignore what’s permenantly going around in your head.
‘YOU CHOOSE TO HAVE AN EATING DISORDER’
Wrong wrong wrong. Eating disorders aren’t things that the sufferer chooses, they are illnesses which develop uncontrolably due to things which are happening in the individual’s life. EG – dieting, loss of a loved one, friendship/relationship break downs, exam/work stress, the thrive for perfection, wanting to get fitter, wanting to fit in with peers and so on. Eating disorders choose their victims, because they are manipulating and thrive in vulnerable people who are likely to give in to the demons in their heads telling them to control their eating habits/weight and so on.
Please be mindful of the things you are saying to somebody with an Eating Disorder. ED sufferers are vulnerable so can become upset or triggered by things said. ‘Small’ comments can be very harmful, even if it is unintended.