To The Person Who Is Questioning Whether They're "Sick Enough" For Eating Disorder Treatment

As an eating disorder therapist, one common thing that I hear all of the time, is a person’s belief that they aren’t “sick enough” to have an eating disorder or to need eating disorder treatment.

Eating disorders can often be “competitive illnesses.” For instance, your eating disorder may cause you to compare yourself to others who are struggling and will then tell you that you “aren’t sick enough.” Your eating disorder will say this in an effort to keep you trapped and under it’s control. Often for your eating disorder there is no “sick enough.” I’ve heard from people who were near death and still didn’t believe that they were ill.

Additionally, some people with restrictive eating disorders struggle with something called “anosognosia” which is a brain-based lack of awareness, where essentially the individual is unable to see that they are ill. This is why it’s so important for concerned individuals to push their loved ones to seek treatment, even if the person declares that they are “fine.”

Even if you don’t suffer from anosognosia, if you try to convince yourself that you are “fine” you do not have to take the scary steps towards recovery. So it makes complete sense as to why you might want to believe that “everything is ok,” even if it’s not.

Unfortunately, there is also a lot of stigma and misinformation about what someone with an eating disorder “looks like,” or the signs that someone might be struggling. Individuals who are suffering might internalize some of these messages.

So today, I want to make a few things clear.

· Even if you are considered to be “normal weight” or “overweight” (according to BMI charts, which are hugely problematic and political, but I reference it here to make a point).

· Even if you think that you are “too big” to have an eating disorder.

· Even if you’ve never had a feeding tube.

· Even if your eating disorder never landed you in the hospital.

· Even if you “still eat meals.”

· Even if you never had medical complications from your eating disorder.

· Even if your labs appear “normal.”

· Even if you have some days that feel easier than other days.

· Even if you think that others “have it worse than you.”

· Even if family and friends do not seem concerned about you.

If you are struggling with a preoccupation with food and weight-you are “sick enough” and you absolutely deserve to seek treatment and help.

Eating Disorder Myth-Busting.

Eating disorders are mental illnesses, and we cannot tell how much someone is suffering on the basis of their physical appearance. Additionally, life-threatening eating disorders can impact people of all weights, body types, ages, ethnicities, genders, cultures, and socioeconomic statuses. They do not discriminate.

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I don’t even think I could count the number of times that I’ve worked with clients who say, “but I can’t possibly have an eating disorder because I’m not underweight,” or “It can’t really be that serious because I look normal.”

As a therapist, I work almost exclusively with people struggling with eating disorders and they come in all different body shapes and sizes. You cannot tell whether someone is struggling on the basis of their weight or appearance.

If you have a voice in your head that convinces you to restrict your food, over-exercise, binge, purge, or engage in any other eating disorder behaviors, you are “sick enough” and you deserve to get help and support.

Full recovery is possible. Yes, for you too.

Jennifer Rollin, MSW, LCSW-C: is an eating disorder therapist in private practice in Rockville, Maryland. Jennifer specializes in helping teens and adults struggling with anorexia, binge eating disorder, and bulimia, and body image issues. Jennifer provides eating disorder therapy in Rockville, MD, easily accessible to individuals in Potomac, North Potomac, Bethesda, Olney, Germantown, and Washington D.C. Connect with Jennifer through her website: www.jenniferrollin.com

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