An Unfortunate Case of Misunderstanding: Some Teens Don’t See Eating Disorders as a Disease

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Written by Tyven Gabriner

Recently, when I told my friend that I was writing a blog post on eating disorders, he replied, “How could you write about something that doesn’t really exist?” This shocked me. I assumed that he had some knowledge about how deadly and serious this disease is, but that was not the case. I realized that many people do not view this disease as a serious problem. I set out to change their perspective.

Today, many teenagers, like me, are heavily influenced by the world around us. With messages that tell us how to look, act, and feel all coming from the media that we see everyday, it’s hard not to be influenced by those ideas and images. Our friends and family also have an immense impact on the way we view the world. Teenage girls are repeatedly given the message from the media that they must be skinny in order to appeal to men and themselves.

Unfortunately, these messages often cause many girls (females represent 90% of individuals with an eating disorder) to struggle with body dissatisfaction and many young women take this ideal of impossible perfection and try to replicate it. With a mix of over-exercising, binging, purging, and depriving themselves of food, they do not get the sufficient nutrients their body needs to survive and function properly.

Even though eating disorders are becoming increasingly common among teens and has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder, they don’t readily come to mind when you think about mental health issues or serious fatal diseases. This is in part because eating disorder clinics do not get nearly as much insurance coverage or media coverage as other illnesses even though it is extremely prevalent.

The National Eating Disorder Association wrote that in 2011, the NIH funds for eating disorders were only six percent of what the funds for Alzheimer’s disease were even though nearly 6 times as many people suffer from eating disorders than Alzheimer’s disease.

As a student currently in high school, I often come across people at school who appear to be overly-obsessed with the way they look. Whether it’s clothes, the makeup they wear, or even their personality; they will do almost anything to change it to make themselves feel and appear better. Some people would even starve themselves just to look skinnier. Even if someone is starving, close to death, and looking emaciated, they cannot stop because they still do not feel better about themselves.

Several girls I know suffer from eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia and have serious health issues because of it. One friend started when she was 14 and lost a large portion of her weight, and was fatigued on a daily basis, and had a hard time functioning in the world.

If you or a loved one is having a similar experience as my friend, I urge you to seek help. An eating disorder can be a lifelong illness and fatal if not properly dealt with. You have the power to make a difference in your or someone else’s life. If you need help, reach out to us today, at 888.298.HOPE (4673).

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