The Most Fatal Psychiatric Illness May Surprise You: National Eating Disorders Awareness Week

 In Suicide Prevention

MOST OF US MISUNDERSTAND EATING DISORDERS

Miranda Lambert, photo credit: Larry McCormack, The Tennessean

Miranda Lambert, photo credit: Larry McCormack, The Tennessean

Miranda Lambert shows vulnerability by opening up about her personal struggles with her own body image in this interview (with The Tennessean).  In it, one young fan said Lambert inspired her to beat her eating disorder and toss her scale in the trash.  We tend to see these stories in the news all the time, but seldom realize the way these celebrity reports skew our perception of people with Eating Disorders.  In truth, this is a serious mental illness with the most tragic of consequences if left unaddressed.

Anorexia is the most fatal of all psychiatric illnesses. Extreme food restriction can lead to starvation, malnutrition and a dangerously low body weight – all of which are strongly correlated with a host of health problems. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder.  While complete recovery from anorexia is possible, early treatment leads to the greatest success.  Left untreated, this particular form of mental illness often progresses to become a serious mental illness–even one involving thoughts of taking one’s own life.


WE ASKED AMANDA ROTH TO CLEAR UP MISCONCEPTIONS FOR FOR #NEDAWARENESS WEEK 2019

amanda roth eating disorder awareness week #NEDAwareness

Amanda Roth is a clinical Psychology Doctoral student at the University of Indianapolis with expertise in eating disorders

The biggest thing I would want the public to know is that you cannot tell if someone has an eating disorder just by looking at them.  Eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes and they do not discriminate in terms of gender either.  If you ask someone to describe eating disorders, many people would likely respond that it is a white female with anorexia who is bone thin.  This just isn’t an accurate description of most people with eating disorders.  Some people do lose weight or become severely underweight as a symptom of their eating disorders but many people do not.”

HOW DO CELEBRITY STORIES INFLUENCE OUR UNDERSTANDING OF EATING DISORDERS?

“The thin ideal for women which is ingrained in young girls’ brains in our society from a very young age.  The media tends to highlight the perfect body, usually focused on females but in terms of males it is typically the muscular and fit body.”

HOW ARE MODERN EATING DISORDERS DIFFERENT THESE DAYS?

“Modern social media contributes to the problem of eating disorders by continuing to promote the perfect body and the thin ideal.  Social media is also loaded with body shaming and negative talk about bodies.  It is very common to see people post on Facebook about how they need to lose weight or how they need to “work off” that pizza they just ate.  These are very disordered ways of thinking and when people with eating disorders see these messages, they are often triggered and use eating disorder behaviors to cope with the messages.

In addition to seeking help right away when an individual believes they may have an eating disorder, I would also highly recommend seeking such help from professionals who are eating disorder specialists.  Eating disorders are complex mental illnesses with medical risks and complications and they require treatment from individuals who understand these complexities.”

NATIONAL EATING DISORDER AWARENESS WEEK IS THIS FEBRUARY 25TH-MARCH 3RD

2019’s theme, Come as You Are, highlights NEDA’s movement towards inclusivity in the greater eating disorder community and our goal of unifying the field of eating disorders. In particular, Come as You Are sends a message to individuals at all stages of body acceptance and eating disorders recovery that their stories are valid.  In this way, NEDA’s theme this year highlights what Amanda Roth wishes to stress:  “You can’t tell if someone has an eating disorder just by looking at them.”

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