Those of you that follow my blog will probably know that I am diagnosed with anorexia. I have lived with it most of my life despite only being officially diagnosed 4 years ago.
I am pregnant right now and actually I am still suffering. I am not restricting food or putting myself through any periods of starvation because I don’t want to harm my baby in anyway. However, I can feel anorexia still there in the background waiting like a coiled spring to leap back into action once I have had my baby. The point I am trying to make is that eating disorders – along with all mental health issues never leave you. They may lie dormant, sitting quietly in the background for weeks, months or years at a time, but they remain with you for your entire life.
I have recently seen several conversations on social media (and have overheard in real life) that have made my blood boil. Ignorant comments such as;
“Eating disorders aren’t real.”
“They are ‘diets’ young girls follow to get attention.”
I really wanted to reply to these people and really let them have it but I decided against it. I thought the best thing I can do is spread as much awareness and truths about eating disorders as I can and hope that I educate others into believing and understanding them for what they are. Serious mental health conditions.
Eating disorder myths;
- You have to look visibly ill; This is simply not true. You do not need to look skeletal, pale and weak to be suffering from an eating disorder. However, having said that sometimes this is the case. I certainly got very thin at times but was able to hide it very well. People who suffer with other eating disorders can be very ill but just not be showing any physical symptoms. When People first heard my diagnosis of anorexia I would see there eyes move up and down my body almost hearing them saying “Really? You don’t look like it? What they and many others don’t understand that anorexia along with all forms of eating disorders are ‘mental’ issues. They start and primarily reside in your head. The constant daily battles can’t be seen on the outside but they are fiercely alive in your mind.
- Just eat something and you’ll feel better; Boy, if only it was this easy! I have had this said to me many times over the years “Just have a sandwich” “One bite won’t kill you!” This is actually quite a dangerous way to behave. Because eating disorders are mental illnesses they are far more complex than people realise. They can steam from traumatic childhoods, a frightening event and so many other reasons. Telling someone with anorexia, for example, to simply eat something is just awful. It makes us angry, anxious, frightened and therefore we will distance ourselves from you even more so not to be in this terrifying situation again.
- There are only two types of eating disorder; If you say eating disorder to someone then I almost guarantee that they will name only two. Anorexia and Bulimia but there are many many more. These are perhaps the two most ‘well known’ but others that are just as serious, include; Binge eating disorder, Purging disorder, EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified), Emotional overeating, Disordered eating/Eating problems. I expect there will be more and more recognised as more people seek help but this is just a snapshot into how varied and complex an eating disorder is.
- Only young girls get eating disorders; Again this is so untrue, and dangerous thinking. Anyone can develop an eating disorder. Regardless of gender, age or culture. It is true that most suffering do tend to be girls from 12 to 21 years of age but anyone of any age can and unfortunately do suffer. Because they are mental illnesses and steam from a combination of biological, psychological and genetic factors it can make anyone susceptible to suffering with any kind of eating disorder.
- Eating disorders are all about vanity; Well this could not be further from the truth! Vanity as stated in the dictionary is – excessive pride in or admiration of one’s own appearance or achievements. Eating disorders are based around lack of self confidence, self esteem and even hatred of oneself. Those of us suffering from an eating disorder do not believe we are good enough in very little or any parts of our lives! Quite the opposite of vanity wouldn’t you say?
Well there you have it. My examples of the myths I have heard around eating disorders corrected. I think I should also mention here that out of all of the mental illnesses that there are, currently, anorexia has the highest mortality rate! Something to think about.
I think the best advice I can give you if you know someone suffering with an eating disorder is just to be there for them. Still text them, visit them, invite them out but if you are very concerned don’t be afraid to bring up the subject – you can find lots of helpful resources and advice on the Beat website.
Love Amy x