The Voice of an Eating Disorder
Many people have a difficult time comprehending eating disorders and their true intensity and severity.
- Eating disorders are a choice. (They’re not, but you can choose to seek and commit to recovery.)
- You can tell someone has an eating disorder just by looking at them. (Individuals with eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes.)
- Eating disorders are about vanity. (These are serious psychiatric illnesses.)
- Eating disorders aren’t dangerous. (They have serious health consequences. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.)
Some people even wish to have anorexia.
In her book, Brave Girl Eating: A Family’s Struggle with Anorexia, Harriet Brown writes:
Anorexia is quite possibly the most misunderstood illness in America today. It’s the punch line of a mean joke, a throwaway plot device in TV shows and movies about spoiled rich girls. Or else it’s a fantasy weight-loss strategy; how many times have you heard (or said yourself) ‘Gee, I wouldn’t mind a little anorexia’?
Brave Girl Eating recounts how Brown’s family helped her then-14-year-old daughter, Kitty, recover from anorexia using family-based treatment.
One of the most difficult parts of recovery is quieting the eating disorder voice and hearing your own voice again.
Most of us can understand feeling anxious around food and not being good enough or thin enough (thanks to our society and its dangerous diet mentality). But the voice of an eating disorder is nastier, relentless and seems omnipotent. It hurls insults and uses fear tactics. Sometimes, every hour on the hour. People who suffer from eating disorders typically report hearing a cruel and demeaning voice — one that says they aren’t good enough, should stop eating, must lose weight and must engage in eating-disordered behaviors.
It’s very important to realize that a person is separate from their illness. For many people with eating disorders, it’s especially hard to separate their identity from the illness. In Brave Girl Eating, Brown distinguishes her daughter from the eating disorder voice, which she refers to as a demon and Not-Kitty.