Right now, one percent of all American women — our sisters, co-workers, friends, mothers, and daughters — are starving themselves; some literally starving and exercising themselves to death. Eating disorders are becoming an epidemic, especially among our most promising young women. These women and girls, whom we admire and adore, feel a deep sense of inadequacy and ineffectiveness. Anorexia nervosa is a confusing, complex disease that many people know too little about.
There is no blame in anorexia nervosa. Anorexia is not an indication that parents have gone wrong in raising their children. Cultural, genetic and personality factors interact with life events to initiate and maintain eating disorders.
Anorexia is not fun. Many people who strive to lose weight state, “I wish I were anorexic.” They fail to recognize the wretchedness of the disease. Anorexia is not about feeling thin, proud and beautiful; if you take the time to listen to an anorexic you will hear that they feel fat, unattractive and inadequate. They are scared and trapped.
Anorexia is not something sufferers can just “snap out of.” A person with this disorder is possessed by thoughts of weight, body image, food, and calories. Many sufferers are not even free of the disease in their sleep, troubled by dreams of food, eating, and exercise. Anorexia is an awful, lonely experience that often takes years to conquer.
Anorexia is hard on everyone involved. Living with someone with anorexia nervosa can be exasperating and confusing. To those who do not understand the complexity of the disorder, the sufferer’s behavior seems selfish and manipulative. It is often hard to remember that eating disorders are a manifestation of profound unhappiness and distress.
Anorexia can be deadly. It has one of the highest fatality rates of any mental illness. If you or someone you know shows the signs or symptoms of an eating disorder, take action, get educated and seek help.