Guest Writer: amal.exe#0546
(Contains sensitive content)

We all know that February is the month of love and Black History Month, but it’s also National Eating Disorder Awareness Month.

Eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, pica, orthorexia, night eating syndrome, and many others can greatly affect someone’s life in very negative ways. In fact, one person dies every hour because of an eating disorder and 70% of people with eating disorders will never pursue treatment. Why? Because they are afraid, and fear is a result of ignorance. So to alleviate the stigma surrounding eating disorders, we need to encourage people to seek the treatment they need. I will write this article in order to inspire, provide facts regarding EDs, and share my own experiences.

Anyone with an ED knows that it feels like it controls your entire life. If you have an ED, you feel like you are trapped––stuck. You believe your ED controls you, and some may even feel like they are defined by their ED. You are a puppet and your ED is the puppeteer. But what we don’t realize is that we are not a puppet. We are merely human beings who got tangled in a pile of string, and despite how tied down you feel, you do have the strength to untangle yourself. You are able to free yourself. You are not your eating disorder. You can defeat it.


The Stigma:

Many people who have eating disorders may not even realize that they have one because the stereotypes associated with an ED don’t apply to them––thin, sickly, female, teenage, etc. Some people do show these traits but there is a large number of people with EDs that don’t exhibit them. People also tend to assume the only life-threatening eating disorder is anorexia. While it is an extremely dangerous disorder, there are several other disorders that can greatly damage someone’s life and potentially kill them. This is why it’s important to bring more and better awareness about EDs; knowing and understanding is the first crucial step to potentially saving countless lives.

I only started to suspect I had an ED after finding a video by Psych2go on Youtube about different types of eating disorders. The ED I have is not as well recognized as anorexia or bulimia. Unfortunately, many people don’t even consider my ED an eating disorder. For me, it was never about losing weight, so people don’t take it seriously. There’s this idea that every person who has an eating disorder has to fit a certain image or trope, and that is very much not the case. It’s frankly a damaging assumption since it can mean many people can live their entire lives undiagnosed and never getting the treatment they need and deserve. I don’t look like someone who has an ED: I’m kind of chubby, I don’t look sickly or depressed, and I’m pretty upbeat most of the time. I’m sure this is the case for many other people. I know that this stereotype of people with mental disorders looking and acting a certain way is true for many other types of disorders, but I digress.


Coping Mechanisms:

Brushing off an ED could potentially cause your health to deteriorate further. The rule of thumb that self-diagnosing is never a good idea does not apply in this case. Seeking treatment is essential. Do some research on healthy coping mechanisms, find a support group, write some articles like I am, call a helpline; do what it takes to help you conquer your ED before it conquers you. But most of all, don’t forget to love yourself. I know that sounds easier said than done but try looking past the flaws and focus on the parts of yourself that you do like. Accept that you have flaws but don’t let yourself be defined by them. There’s more to you than the bad; accept that there is good as well. If the flaw is a bad habit, work towards fixing it if it is possible. Improving who you are is a better alternative to self hate. Low self esteem is a very common cause of eating disorders and learning self-acceptance is essential in the healing process.

Some of my coping mechanisms include chewing gum when I’m feeling an urge to binge, talking to someone, expressing my feelings in a poem, and I even see a counselor. Try out some of these to find out what works for you. The most important thing, however, is to find someone you feel you can trust and confide in. There’s no reason why you have to fight alone.


Important Facts:

  Mortality rates for bulimia are 3.9%, 4% for anorexia 4%, and 5.2% for EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified)

  Around 30 million people in the US have an ED

  EDs have the highest mortality rate compared to any other mental illness

  13% of women over 50 have an ED

  50-80% of anorexia and bulimia cases are genetic (around 50% for binge eating disorder)

  Around 30-50% of people with eating disorders also have mood disorders such as depression, bipolarity, and/or anxiety disorders

  33% of people with eating disorders are male

  80% of people who seek inpatient treatment recover from their ED


Conclusion

Eating disorders are difficult to deal with. Your eating habits and health are completely disrupted, and it almost seems impossible to get out of it. However, you can recover from this. After all, 80% of people who seek proper treatment recover. You’ve got this. Together we can turn the 30% of people who seek treatment into 100% by spreading the word and sharing our experiences. Don’t be afraid to reach out. Even if you suspect you have unhealthy eating habits, you should do some further research and take it seriously. It will be hard. Especially if you’re anorexic, going back to a normal diet will make you gain a lot of weight because your metabolism needs to reset. Don’t let this discourage you. Yes, it will be extremely difficult, but you can do this. We’ve got your back. You are not alone. If you know someone who is suffering from an ED, please stay by their side, because support is what makes all the difference. You can be a part of the cause simply by being there for your loved ones.


Where to Reach Out

If you are suffering from an eating disorder, please call:

   US: 1-888-236-1188

   Australia: 142

   Mexico: (55) 5259-8121

   France: (English line) 01 46 21 46 46

   Germany: 0800 111 0222

   UK: 08456 341 414

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For a full list of numbers you can reach and other resources, visit http://www.cocoonais.com/mental-health-hotlines-worldwide/


References:

   https://anad.org/education-and-awareness/about-eating-disorders/eating-disorders-statistics/

   https://www.eatingdisorder.org/eating-disorder-information/facts-myths/

   https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/general-information/research-on-males

   https://www.eatingrecoverycenter.com/conditions/eating-disorders/facts-statistics

   https://www.mirror-mirror.org/eating-disorders-statistics.htm

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