'"These patients are not choosing this behaviour," says Bulik, who's considered an international expert on the disorder. "You could go to any eating disorder clinic around the world and the core clinical picture would be identical. There may be different cultural presentations or variations on the packaging, but the core signs of low body weight, an extreme drive for thinness, amenorrhea (absence of menstruation) and often hyperactivity and anxiety just jump out at you as saying this is biological in origin."'
I have had an eating disorder for as long as I can remember I do not even fully know when it began I was just considered and extremely picky eater as a young child. I started throwing my food away under things in the trash can when I was probably about 5 or 6. I really did not see a problem with what I was doing and when it was suggested by a teacher when I was in high school that I was anorexic I found that preposterous. I wasn't anorexic I ate. I considered eating a half a peach a day eating well then walking 5 miles one way and back in over 100 degree weather normal for exercise. I know that I wanted to just disappear so that I could not be hurt again. I also felt if I was thin enough that people would find me disgusting and I would not be hurt. If people don't want to touch you then they cannot hurt you. I am 35 now and still struggle with this. I have been into treatment several times since I was 19. In my 20's ED was an all consuming figure in my life and took over to a point where I had to quit college (I almost got kicked out because of ED). I would say that ED is nothing to do with being skinny it is more of wanting to escape the pain and not knowing how to control your own life other than what goes into or does not go into your mouth. I never really fit the anorexia criteria because even though I was almost 40% below my ideal weigh I never experienced amenorrhea so they diagnosed me EDNOS. I had every criteris except that and I do believe that some people will never get the amenorrhea and that it should be a possibility for the diagnosis but not necessarily a definite criteria. How can you tell a person who eats I teaspoon of corn a day just so that she can tell people that she ate that she is not anorexic when she weighs in the low 60's? Anyway I will get off of my soap box now. Those are my experiences and thoughts.
No eating disorder is fundamentally about food, weight or body size, although they all appear at first glance to be about those very things. Eating disorders, including anorexia, are really about a person's feelings about him/herself in the world, about how she fits in (her worries that she doesn't) with humanity, about self-esteem, about dealing with emotions- basically about dealing with life itself. But it's not hard to see why people think eating disorders are about food and weight, since the behaviors are all related to food, weight, exercise and body size. What's more, for the person who suffers from the disorder, it really feels as if all she is trying to do is "get thinner" or "be healthy"- the disorder feels SO much to her as if it is only about getting "smaller" (or something else related to changing her body so it is more like she "wants it to be"). Eating disorders often begin as a diet or as an attempt to "eat lower fat" meals or as a way to "get healthy," which only complicates the picture. One of the major challenges for someone who suffers from an eating disorder, as well as for those who care about her, is to begin to understand what the illness is truly about, not what it looks like it's about.
The emotional issues that are at the core of the eating disorder have nothing to do with food and/or weight - those are simply the means at which someone with an eating disorder deals with instead of the real problems in his/her life. It's a powerful filter that, for me, actually helped me deal with how I felt about myself and where I was going in life. Of course, an eating disorder is an ineffective coping mechanism in the long run, but it was a wonderful distraction when I was in the throes of my eating disorder. Now in my process of recovery, I still have yet to find a coping mechanism that's as powerful as the eating disorder. I am compiling smaller (but healthier) coping mechanisms that I hope will eventually gain strength in number. :)
An eating disorder is as much a coping mechanism as other self-injurious behaviors, such as self-harm, smoking, drinking, drug use, and so on. It is a way to distract from much deeper, emotional pain. Being thin is certainly part of some eating disorders, but is far from the foundation.
I've often even heard people in treatment less relate their need to be thin with "looking good/glamourous" and more with the idea of wanting to disappear, take up less space, be weightless, and being invisible. These have far more emotional meaning behind them than just the simple idea of looking skinny for the appearance.
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