While conversations surrounding anorexia nervosa have become more common, it is unfortunate that stigma related to them still exists.
It is common that people openly discuss the negative impact of social media, diet culture, and the wellness industry from their own perspectives and experiences, acknowledging the harm that this has created while still keeping discussions of disordered eating and exercise behaviors at arms-length.
In fact, many still perceive that, yes, they are impacted by society’s disordered relationship with food and the body, however, they have not “let it get too far,” implying that those that have developed eating disorders due to these highly influential factors somehow allowed this to happen to them.
This is just one of many ways in which individuals with anorexia nervosa are stigmatized and judged. For those struggling with the disorder of anorexia, overcoming this stigma to reach out for help can be frightening.
Below, we discuss some tactics struggling individuals can use to push beyond the stigma of anorexia, reduce self-judgment, and seek support.
Remember, You are Not Alone
This is a point reiterated in many articles related to mental illness and eating disorders because it always bears repeating. Despite anorexia nervosa being the deadliest mental illness, our culture continues to pretend that it is uncommon. Approximately 200,000 individuals in the US struggle with anorexia and it is the third most common chronic illness in adolescents .
The belief that you are alone in your struggle is one that does not serve your recovery. All this belief will do is lead you to shame and judge yourself and push you toward isolation and away from seeking help. Remind yourself that you are not the only one struggling with this disorder.
There are many out there struggling just like you and many more educated and trained in supporting you toward recovery.
Do Not Minimize Your Struggle
The world is going to minimize your struggle enough without doing it to yourself. In fact, one of the most isolating factors of struggling with anorexia is the way in which our culture reduces it to a disorder of vanity and insecurity. Do not be ashamed if a predominant factor behind your struggle with anorexia is body image. While many “shoo” this away, it is no small factor.
Research indicates that the way one perceives their body and appearance is highly correlated with their self-worth and mental well-being. Our culture perpetuates this with wellness industry and diet culture advertisements and products that promise happiness and fulfillment related to appearance. However, when an individual engages in unsafe or ineffective methods to achieve this and become disordered, society wants to judge them as superficial.
Reject it all by acknowledging how appearance-related self-view contributes to your anorexia symptoms without judgment and working toward reshaping your beliefs on appearance and self-worth. Additionally, do not allow your own psychopathology to be limited by society’s narrow view of this illness. While appearance-related self-worth may be a factor, it is rarely the only factor.
Anorexia Nervosa often co-occurs with a history of trauma, childhood discord, mood disorders, anxiety disorders, experiences of bullying, and many other biological, psychological, and social factors. Do not be ashamed to explore the nuances of your struggle in order to “know thine enemy” and fight for recovery.
The best way to combat stigma is to acknowledge your struggle as valid and seeking support for your recovery is doing just that. When we seek out professional help, we accept that our challenge is real and that we deserve the support of trained and educated professionals to overcome it.
In seeking support, you are not only believing yourself to be worthy of help, care, and recovery, you are also refusing to allow social stigma to limit your choices and opening yourself up to a new reality and better future.
In receiving treatment, you will meet others with similar experiences, helping you to feel less alone and isolated and allowing you to learn how you can grow through the experiences of others. More than that, you will work with professionals that approach your struggle with non-judgment, allowing you to approach yourself with the same.
In the treatment world, what may seem uncommon in your life is not only known but compassionately understood by both your peers and your treatment team. Reaching out for help means quieting the negative voices of society and fighting for the person that matters most – you.
Resources: Unknown (2006). Eating disorder statistics. South Carolina Department of Mental Health. Retrieved from https://www.state.sc.us/dmh/anorexia/statistics.htm.
About Our Sponsor:
At Eating Disorder Solutions, compassion is at the root of everything we do. We understand that eating disorders are complex, deeply rooted mental health and medical conditions which require personalized treatment for a successful recovery. By integrating behavioral health modalities and clinical interventions, we endeavor to address disordered eating at its source.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Published June 21, 2021, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on June 21, 2021, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC