Eating disorders are vicious, debilitating and progressive illnesses. Eating disorders are pervasive and dangerous, even to the point of death for some. Eating disorders can be hard to identify in others and even hard to identify in yourself.
Having an eating disorder does not limit you to one aspect of the illness, to be an Anorexic you do not have to get to an unimaginably low weight, to be a Bulimic you do not necessarily have to exhibit the exact number of purging episodes specified in the DSM-IV for the behavior to impact your life negatively. Many people get confused as to whether they have a problem or not because they don’t see themselves as “Anorexic” or “Bulimic” or as a “Binge Eater” or “Exercise Addict” because these lines can be blurry, and there is a lot of room for grey.
If you are wondering if you, or someone you care about, may have an eating disorder the most important thing to ask is whether or not bingeing, purging, overeating, obsessing about food, body image, weight and exercise is getting in the way of living life that is “normal”. If you, or the person you care about, can answer this question honestly, it may be easier to decide if seeking out help is the right thing to do.
Often time’s people with eating disorders will isolate, like with many other addictions the person suffering from an eating disorder may feel shame about their behavior or may want others to see only a certain side of them, not revealing the behavior they see as flawed.
Other times, a person with an eating disorder may begin hiding food and food behaviors from others, not wanting anyone to know exactly what is going on. They may feel out of control, unable to stop, even when they desperately want to. A person with an eating disorder may be able to exhibit eating that appears to be usual at times, they may even participate in outings where food is involved but, this same person may leave that outing and binge or purge or begin a exercise or restriction regimen that they believe will delete that food from their bodies.
Women with eating disorders may spend much time comparing their bodies to the bodies of others; they may find their bodies unacceptable or disgusting, though to others they may seem completely appropriate. They may abuse laxatives in an attempt to hastily remove unwanted calories from their bodies. They may restrict during the day and binge all night, only to start the cycle over again the next day. The fear of food and the obsession slowly leaks in to every aspect of the sufferer’s life, engulfing each meaningful relationship, goal and desire on it’s path until the sufferer feels there is no way out, until they feel defeated lost and desperate for an answer, an end to the pain that seems unbreakable. While many may not reach this point of intense desperation there are those who continue to suffer, and because of the confusion, do not ask for the help they need and deserve.
Eating disorders get progressively worse with time, the can begin as a small idea that a diet will make a person feel better, or the idea that a little more of a particular food item will take the edge off the feelings, or “numb” you out. Those with an eating disorder may become fearful of food, believing that they have a problem with the food, and therefore it must be avoided altogether. This behavior usually leads to a binge, attached with guilt and shame. The cycle is endless. Sometimes the pain is too much to handle, and the guilt and weight of holding this secret, this flaw, leads one to purge, there is now a hope attached to the behavior; hope that ridding yourself of the food, the evidence, and the weight will release you emotionally. Again, the cycle is unending because what many fail to realize, at no fault of their own, is that there are underlying, issues that are behind the behaviors with food that need to be dealt with before for the “food problem” will ever go away.
Whatever your problem may be surrounding food, I encourage you to look wholeheartedly at the behaviors and ask yourself if you feel that the behaviors and obsessions and the “just one last time” is stopping you from living.
By: Katie Rose Wingert