Once again it has been far too long since I last posted, but I have been battling my demons in an effort to get on track once again. Therefore, ‘invisible’ eating disorders seemed like an appropriate topic to broach, especially considering that I am a ‘normal’ weight now. Essentially this means that I am healthy and my BMI is not too low or too high, but that can be a difficult fact for me to accept.
Psychologically however, I still suffer with anorexia. Some days are easier than others, but trying to force myself to get through the bad days is something I still struggle with. I can’t always eat my toast or cereal in the morning, and I can’t always finish my dinner in the evening. Due to the severity of my condition I’ve been told it is something I will always have to manage and likely will not go away. That’s a hard notion to get my head around, but if I want to lead a normal life then I have little choice in the matter! It’s just about taking each day as it comes and doing my best to win the war against that destructive voice in my head.
This leads me onto the main point of this post which is that there are many suffering with hidden eating disorders. For example, very often somebody with bulimia will be a healthy weight, or somebody with binge eating disorder will be overweight. These aren’t always your typical sufferers, and so unless they speak out it can be hard for them to seek understanding and support from family, peers and medical professionals. If they do admit to a problem, then they could face comments such as ‘Well, you don’t look ill’ or ‘Maybe it’s just a phase you’re going through’. If they summon up the courage to approach someone for help and find themselves dismissed, then this may be even more damaging for them.
Eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS) is when an individual has an eating disorder but does not fit the full criteria for anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder. By no means does this name suggest that they do not feel the same amount of distress or pain as somebody with one of the aforementioned illnesses, but the lack of awareness around this disorder means that they may face stigma and judgement that things aren’t quite so bad for them. In reality they could be just as likely to need as much help as someone with a more commonly heard of diagnosis!
Moreover, they may in fact be in more danger because EDNOS is not so easily recognised, and therefore may suffer in silence until things become worse and worse. The psychological suffering is something that I cannot stress enough; eating disorders are not just about the physical symptoms. You never really know what is going on inside the head of anybody with an eating disorder, unless they are willing to open up and share their thoughts with you (which is obviously extremely difficult to do).
Unfortunately, EDNOS also has a strong relationship with other mental health problems such as self-harm, anxiety and depression. An individual can suffer with a mix of these which only contributes to their unhealthy relationship with food. The earlier that one is able to get help, the better, but for somebody who is in denial about what they are going through it can be almost impossible to help. Unless someone truly wants to stop hurting themselves, then it can be very difficult to treat.
If you are looking in from the outside and suspect somebody is suffering then be very gentle in how you approach them, and don’t be angry if you are met with a hostile reaction. To broach the subject with someone in denial is a complex situation to be in, and don’t be offended if they rebuff your attempts at help. The last of the links I have posted today contains some useful information that I won’t waste time repeating, and a link to a helpline you can call if you are at a loss as to what to do. Don’t give up on the individual concerned though, because you might just be that one person who manages to get through to them!
Keep fighting everyone,