This month is National Eating Disorder Awareness month. More specifically 21st-27th of February. It’s time to stamp out the stigma of mental health and give it the attention, education and understanding that it needs. There are many recognised mental health illnesses that seem to be accepted as an illness but personally I don’t think Eating Disorders are received so well.
The goal of NEDA week is to put the spotlight on just how serious Eating Disorders are.
Stamp out the Stigma
As someone who has been through the pain and suffering of an Eating Disorder and also seeing friends suffer I am well aware of the stigma attached. “Just eat” and “it’s just a phase” or “you look better, you’ve put on weight” are common misconceptions of what an Eating Disorder is and highlights exactly what is wrong with society and its attitude. It all boils down to a lack of understanding.
It’s a complicated illness – it’s not about weight and it’s definitely not about food so I can see where the confusion lies. If I were to ask 10 people on the street the question “What is an Eating Disorder?” I would put money on at the very least 9 people telling me it’s when someone doesn’t want to eat and loses lots of weight or wants to be thin. On the outside looking in that is exactly what an Eating Disorder is but it’s not. Not eating and losing weight is not an Eating Disorder- it is the outcome and consequence of the eating disorder.
What is an Eating Disorder?
It is a psychological illness. It is a way of coping and feeling in control when everything else in life feels out of control. An Eating Disorder or preoccupation with weight loss acts as a mask of what is really going on. A person suffering from an Eating Disorder often struggles to show emotions and feelings, instead of dealing with these emotions because they are to difficult to contemplate they are pushed away and weight may become the new focus. By shifting focus the sufferer doesn’t need to deal with what is really happening inside. Weight and food are often focused on because they are something that can be controlled. You can control exactly what you eat and you can control your weight because of this. Eating Disorders may stem from wanting to feel better about yourself, that’s when people begin to exercise and lose weight. Before long they have found something they can do, something they are good at. This temporarily improves esteem and mood but it’s never good enough- that’s when the Eating Disorder has taken over.
What Eating Disorders LOOK like:
– desire to lose weight
– diets or diets gone wrong
– a phase
– someone being difficult
– attention seeking
What Eating Disorders are ACTUALLY about:
– inability to deal or express emotions
– being a perfectionist but never feeling good enough
– feeling out of control but trying your hardest to gain control
– mental and physical pain
– poor self-esteem
– feeling unworthy and inadequate
Why is awareness to important?
I mentioned self- destruct because ultimately this is what is happening. When going through an Eating Disorder the sufferer knows they are destroying themselves but they can’t stop, they are too far into the illness to make the changes and this is why medical intervention is so important. If you can recognise the signs early on you can help prevent the downward spiral that happens so quickly. This is where my first list comes in. If you see this then more often than not someone will be internally struggling with an Eating Disorder. NEDA week is all about spotting the signs and showing how important treatment is.
The more people understand Eating Disorders and stop ignoring them hoping they will go away the more chance there is of helping the individual. Mental health issues don’t just go away, people don’t just start eating again, mental health issues ante real and need work and support and time.
If you have learnt one thing from this blog then it has served its purpose.
Please read and share my blog, help National Eating Disorder Awareness continue to educate people and dispel the myths of any eating disorder. Awareness isn’t a cure but early intervention may save someone’s life.