All across the United States (and in several other countries as well), some men and women are starving themselves. Other men and women are bingeing to the point of becoming sick. Still others are becoming so fixated on eating “healthy” that they are denying their bodies the nutrition that comes from a balanced, well-rounded diet. The possible reasons why these individuals have been driven to such extremes are endless; however, their realities are the same. They all suffer from a mental illness known today as “eating disorders.”
February 21-27, 2016 is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. According to NationalEatingDisorders.org, 20 million women and 10 million men (in the U.S. alone) suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some point in their lives. Though incredibly pervasive, eating disorders are still largely misunderstood. They are difficult to identify and even more challenging to treat, and unfortunately many men and women suffer in silence. In honor of Eating Disorder Awareness Week, I’m taking this opportunity to shed some light on this poorly understood but incredibly important disorder.
Eating Disorders Are Mental (Not Physical) Illnesses
Because those battling an eating disorder experience such negative physical repercussions, many people believe that eating disorders are physical illnesses. While they do cause physical challenges, however, eating disorders stem from emotional issues. There are countless different situations that can drive someone to develop an eating disorder, but there are two predominant causes.
- Struggles With Body Image
- If a man or a woman is seriously unhappy with his or physical appearance for any reason, they may be at risk for developing an eating disorder. After months of carefully restricting their diets in order to achieve desired results, they may become obsessive and unable to recognize the harm they may be inflicting upon themselves.
- Struggles With Control
- If a man or a woman’s life becomes too stressful or overwhelming (or if he/she is surrounded by too many domineering individuals), they may feel like they completely lack control over their lives. Individuals in these situations may be driven to take control over the one aspect of their lives they feel that they can truly influence: their diets. Over time, this desperation for control can lead to unhealthy and obsessive habits.
If you believe you (or someone you know) may be suffering from an eating disorder, I would love the opportunity to talk with you/them. As an experienced online mental health counselor, I can work with you to develop strategies for overcoming the struggles you may be facing. Let us work together to begin wearing sizes again, rather than identifying as them!