The Allure of Eating Disorders: Perfection and Shame

Eating Disorders -- RCC

The Allure of Eating Disorders: Perfection and Shame

Some people may find this surprising, but eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia can provide individuals with a sense of purpose. They are on a mission to remake themselves and finally become happy. People suffering from an eating disorder will have an inner voice that tells them that they will be happy if they can just lose the weight. This same voice tells a person with anorexia or bulimia that their worth is primarily measured by how they physically look.

People suffering from diseases like anorexia may actually have a sense of uniqueness. As they grapple with hunger pains and thoughts that excessively focus on food, exercise and their body. They become numb to other things in their life. Eating disorders can create an anesthetic-like effect on people. When their body is perfect, they will be happy. There is simply no escape from this mission.

However, this is an illusion. For people, happiness and positive self-esteem arise from accepting and loving themselves as they are in the present. Another crucial piece for a successful recovery is for individuals to have access to love and support. In this way, people can start to understand that their eating disorder was not by choice. Yet, seeking treatment is not always an option for some people. Sadly, there is still a societal stigma towards mental health.

Due to this stigma, and feelings of shame, people may choose to struggle with their eating disorder alone. However, they should understand that there is no shame in having a diagnosed eating disorder. Perceived feelings of shame for having an eating disorder is a poor reason for not seeking professional help. But, these feelings of shame and fear create additional medical complications and high mortality rates for individuals struggling with an eating disorder.

Among the youth and college students, eating disorders are particularly a problem. There is a movement to educate students, as well as the youth in general, about body positivity and the dangers of untreated eating disorders. The goal is for young people to accept that all body shapes and sizes are beautiful. For example, in Northern Ohio, Youngstown State University (YSU) spreads awareness about the dangers of eating disorders by hosting a student fashion show. The show is titled the EveryBODY Fashion Show – Awareness of Eating Disorder Fashion Show and is held to showcase and celebrate all body types. The show is held in honor of a former YSU student (Danielle Peters) from the fashion merchandising program. In 2012, this student died due to complications from an eating disorder. In addition, some students take part in the National Eating Disorders Association Walk at the Cleveland Zoo to raise money for the organization.

Beyond raising awareness, people’s relationship with dieting, body weight and their sense of themselves are complex. People who suffer from eating disorders state that they still feel uncomfortable in their own skin, even after losing a substantial amount of weight. Hopefully, these individuals realize that they are chasing the illusion of perfection and start to understand that it is not possible to “diet” oneself to happiness. There are deeper issues and insecurities at work.

It is possible to fully recover from eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia. However, when a person is alone, it may feel like there is no escape from the obsessive thoughts about food and body weight. A trained healthcare professional can guide and support people as they come to terms with their perceptions and thoughts. Research shows that without proper treatment and professional assistance, the prospects for a full recovery are greatly diminished. In this case, a do it on your own approach is not the best choice.

Recovery from eating disorders can be elusive and challenging. After recovery, individuals may continue to experience mild, moderate or even severe symptoms. What is important is that people maintain an optimistic outlook. People with chronic and debilitating eating disorders can make a full recovery. With the right professional guidance and the proper level of care, it is possible for people to learn to deal with life without the nagging inner voice of an eating disorder.

Contact the friendly staff at River Centre Clinic (RCC) for additional information or questions about eating disorder treatments. Their experienced staff and nationally recognized programs provide patients with a full range of treatment options. The River Centre Clinic is located in the beautiful Sylvania, Ohio.

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Eating Disorders, College Students, Shame, Anorexia, Bulimia

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