by Mary Dressing, LPC-MH, RD, LN
Sanford Clinic Women’s Health Internal Medicine
“I can’t live this way anymore. I am so empty. I hate this body. I hate this war in my head. It is just never-ending. I feel like I am split in half - good verses evil. I just want to die”
This quote is taken from the journal of a person who has struggled with an eating disorder. To help someone understand the magnitude of this illness one needs to realize that the person with an eating disorder is at war with themselves and are fighting to take back their life. The illness permeates every area of an individual’s life – physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. Recovery from an eating disorder is a long process. There are times in this struggle when an individual believes they will never be free from the negativity and fear that is such a part of this disease.
Eating disorders are serious, potentially life-threatening conditions that affect a person’s emotional and physical health. They are not just a fad or a phase. People don’t just “catch” an eating disorder. They are real, complex and devastating conditions which can have serious consequences for health, productivity and relationships. Anorexia and bulimia are illnesses which disconnect an individual from his or her body in such a powerful way that, often times, they are unaware of the harm being done to their physical body as well as to the emotional pain that is actually behind the behavior.
This illness is not about weight. It is not about being skinny or vanity or attention seeking. It is a clear and drastic display of an individual’s pain. The inability to deal with and cope with this pain is expressed in the form of starving or purging. The human body and mind endure a great deal of suffering with this illness. The disconnection from the body makes it difficult to be aware of the emotions being suppressed and held by the body. As human beings there is a close connection between mind, body and spirit. They all affect one another. Unexpressed emotions don’t just disappear. They stay in the body and can come out sideways and in unexpected or unhealthy behaviors.
In order to make it to the other side and find wholeness and sense of self this journey involves a lot of hard work and support. People with an eating disorder need to seek professional help. The earlier a person with an eating disorder seeks treatment, the greater the likelihood of physical and emotional recovery.
In the United States, as many as 10 million females and 1 million males are fighting a life and death battle with anorexia or bulimia. Approximately 15 million more are struggling with a binge eating disorder. Because of the secrecy and shame associated with eating disorders, it is very likely that many more go unreported.
Recovery from an eating disorder really is a possibility. Early detection, initial evaluation, and ongoing management play an important role in recovery and in preventing an eating disorder from progressing to a more severe or chronic state. A team of health professionals − physicians, therapists, and dietitians can help clients navigate their way towards recovery and living a healthy fulfilling life.
To learn more, visit www.nationaleatingdisorders.org.