Trigger Warning: eating disorders
The topic of eating disorders, though familiar at face value, can be foreign in its nature for many of us. This is likely because an addiction or aversion to food seems strange due to its mundanity. Food isn’t titillating like the way drugs or alcohol are. Instead, it is so unbelievably commonplace that we are often quick to pass it off as simply the summation of a body-image disorder. And, although in many cases this is true, I hope to bring up other underlying factors related to the etiology of these harmful actions.
In my first year of university I often found myself overwhelmed and constantly occupied. There was a new set of stressors and pressures that, at the time, I was not equipped to handle. Because of this, I fell into a cyclical habit of self-starvation. I would often go weeks on end on ‘one meal a day’ diets—not so much because of any insecurity about my appearance, but because it felt good to be in control of something. For me, regulating my eating was a short reprieve from the factors in my life that seemed uncontrollable. Looking back, what I find most deeply troubling was the ease in which I fell into this harmful addiction.
This experience, though obviously not an encompassing experience for those who have eating disorders, provided me with some insight on the complex dynamics behind these addictions. Self-harm, no matter its form, usually stems from a varying array of influences, and being able to recognize this can be the first step towards recovery. When we begin to view eating disorders as strategies for enduring various distresses, it shifts the focus from presenting them as issues with self-image and addresses the deeper reason behind the use of such forms of self-harm—namely, a coping mechanism for various traumas in an individual’s life.
This allows us to delve into the deeper ways in which eating disorders are linked to mental wellbeing. Through this, we can create a more open and succinct conversation that includes varying experiences—not just the popularized issue on appearance and self-esteem.
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