W4 Reflection: Anorexia

I wanted to take a look at how anorexia nervosa is commonly misunderstood by our culture and society.  People don’t understand that anorexia is a mental illness and its the way the sufferer views their body image. Some people hate their tummies, butts, thighs, etc. Society drives young women to have certain things like a Kim Kardashian behind and DD breasts. It’s also society and culture that pressures women to have “thigh gaps” and unrealistically toned stomachs just weeks after giving birth, like all the celebrities. Likewise, sufferers of anorexia struggle with their weight a lot. They perceive themselves as “fat” and while they need support and motivation from their loved ones, often times they just get ostracized, and people dismiss it as something as trivial as dieting. Often times they hear remarks like “You need to eat more” “You’re nothing but a bag of bones” or “I don’t know how you can starve yourself like that.” Those kinds of negative remarks affect a person’s attitude and ability to recover. Those suffering from eating disorders need to be reassured that everything’s gonna be okay and they also require constant positive reinforcement to recover. A close friend of mine struggled with the disease for 2 years. Simple things like eating a dish with butter or fat were accomplishments for her. A day when she didn’t count calories was an impressive feat, and when she finally gained a pound, it seemed like a milestone. I guess what I’m trying to say is that people commonly misunderstand this disease. It gets a bad rap most of the time. People suffering from anorexia are people too. And it’s really rough to step out in public looking rather emaciated, but feeling 10, 15, 30 pounds overweight. In reality, it could kill to lose a few more pounds. Anorexia is the most fatal mental health illness. It’s time people gave it a little importance.

4 thoughts on “W4 Reflection: Anorexia

  1. I agree that anorexia is a very misunderstood illness among populations. Many people mistake their actions as being stubborn or insubordinate because they wont listen when people tell them to eat more. I also had a close friend that developed anorexia during high school and is living with the consequences. Throughout his time he knew he was anorexic and he knew why, but he still could not get himself to change his habits. It transitioned into him developing a very acidic stomach and he takes a dozen pills a day to deal with it.

    I think that since anorexia is mainly someones perception of themselves on the outside, people think its superficial and therefor not important or not worth it to invest any proper support. I’ve always thought that Anorexia never sounded as serious as other illnesses out there until I found out my friend was going through it. His experience brought to light a lot of things that I never knew and that I’m sure a lot of other people don’t know.

    Our surroundings and the people we associate with influence our perception immensely. Our parents give us most of our knowledge about the world and our peers and friends give us experience in the world. Whatever they believe makes up your own perception of the world. Through all of this, it becomes the culture and the widespread view. Even if there is free will, the opinions of those around us shape our own opinions some way or another.

  2. Thank you for your insightful post! When it comes to mental illness in general, I do not think that anyone will every truly understand what the ailing person is going through unless they have experienced it themselves. When I was younger, I had a very ignorant perception of anorexia. I used to believe that it was simply someone who wanted to drop some weight and went about it in a ludicrous manner. However, I now understand that it runs much deeper than that. Anorexia is one of the most complicated mental illnesses to treat because it involves both the body and the mind.

    My perceptions of anorexia were previously skewed and misunderstood because of my family. They see mental illness as a flaw, a failure. In my culture, expressing yourself is somewhat frowned upon. Everyone has to be normal. Gratefully, school, friends, and even the media (books, movies) have opened my eyes to how real anorexia is. People with anorexia strive for perfection. They set goals and once they reach it, they set more to the point where their idea of perfection becomes unattainable and deadly. Dealing with my own emotional hardships has also allowed me to develop more empathy for others who suffer from mental illnesses.

  3. Hello Deepa,

    I too have had friends struggle with anorexia nervosa and witnessed first hand at the destructive nature of this illness. I think in recent years, anorexia has come out of the darkness and into the light. What I mean to say is that previously this disorder was viewed as a silent struggle. I saw it as something that the sufferer could be told to abandon and carry on with their lives. Perhaps eating more food in general could push sufferers out of harms way and reverse the disorder in their minds. Unfortunately this notion was dangerous and offered far too simple of a solution and even time ostracized those with the condition. When recovery didn’t occur, I feel as if it was directly blamed on the individual. Now mental health care has improved and the treatment is far more involved leaving the sufferer with a great support system to overcome the illness. My own perceptions have been molded by my personal experiences. In relation to anorexia, watching a friend struggle with the illness allowed me to offer support and aid. I also witnessed friends and family either struggle themselves or help others overcome the illness through therapy and unending support. I believe that diseases like anorexia are heavily influenced by perception and by doing so they craft either a dangerous or positive influence. A friend’s or brother or sister’s support can allow a sufferer to lighten the burden of a mental illness or other ailment. In turn, their indifference can often progress conditions further.

  4. Hello Deepa,

    I chose to respond to your post because although I am familiar with the general definition and case examples of anorexia nervosa, I personally have never struggled with this issue nor do any of my close friends have this issue, and if they do, I have not caught on yet. Therefore, I was interested in what you and others had to say about it since I don’t have deep conversations with anyone about this matter. I was aware the anorexia nervosa was a psychological problem that causes people to lose a lot of weight and stay skinny. They do this by starving themselves or eating very little, or finding ways to regurgitate or eliminate their food in a quick manner. I know has a younger person, I usually thought of someone having anorexia nervosa as being someone who just wanted to make themselves skinny for image purposes. I thought of it as more of a “fashion” trend and not as a psychological problem. However, after growing older and becoming more educated on issues like anorexia and also by meeting people with the condition, I have learned that more times than not, people with anorexia don’t necessarily do what they do for the image of being skinny. They struggle with so much at one time, and I would agree with you and the other people who have responded, that one of the most important and beneficial things a person can do for someone who is struggling with an eating disorder like anorexia, is to comfort them and walk with them through their journey because stating the obvious and scolding them will not help them recover. I feel this is important in the treatment of many illnesses. Many times the reason they got there in the first place was because of people’s harsh words or what society felt they should look like. Most people would never understand what it feels like to struggle with such a condition and won’t have the same thought process as the person dealing with it. I think that popular culture, friends ,and family are a large contributor to the illnesses that people obtain, and I think they should be an even bigger part of the healing process since its hard for anyone to do it on their own. I think institualization could help, but would not have the same effect as receiving support from those that share similar culture. We have learned in class that conditions like anorexia usually don’t develop by choice, and I think that an illness narrative would play a huge role in helping people understand anorexia. Anorexia is not something that most people are proud of, and many are too embarrassed to discuss it with others. I think if more people developed an illness narrative, people would look at those suffering from it better, and those suffering would have an easier time talking about their condition, which is one of the first steps in the healing process.

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