Eating disorders have become extremely common, and, though they can affect everyone, they’ve become especially apparent amongst youth members of society. Often, eating disorders can be directly related to problems with control, anxiety, depression, abuse and/or addictions. As many celebrities have opened up about their struggles, the frequentness of eating disorders-related stories has increased awareness and apprehension.
Troian Bellisario, a young actress who rose to fame via her lead role on Pretty Little Liars, is vocal and honest about her struggles with eating disorders. Bellisario claims, “I couldn’t get anyone — even the people who loved me the most, even my boyfriend or my mother or my father — to understand what that experience was truly like for me…I found there were so many people who thought that it was about losing weight or being skinny, and I couldn’t quite get them to understand that it was about control on a very, very literal level” (Eidell, 2017).
Many people believe eating disorders exclusively encompass anorexia and only sometimes bulimia despite the wide range of eating disorders in existence. Likewise, it’s a common belief that all eating disorders are controllable, a fad to become skinnier, or, by those with the most effrontery, solely an attention ploy, ignoring the serious health threat they genuinely pose.
Interestingly, “the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders estimates that at least 30 million Americans suffer from eating disorders in the U.S., and that every 62 minutes someone dies of causes directly linked to disordered eating” (Herman, 2017). Yet, in actuality, these numbers are expected to be far higher due to factors of secrecy, shame and quietness that often accompany eating disorders and don’t permit acceptance, diagnoses and/or verbal recognition of eating-related problems.
Britt Nilsson, a reality TV star whose claim to fame arose after competing on a 2015 season of The Bachelor, has recently taken to YouTube to document and talk about her problems with alcoholism and eating disorders. Nilsson claims, “I would take my mic off and try to hide it under towels so they wouldn’t hear me throw up, because then that was going to be on the show and that was going to be a plot line. How horrible would that be, to be the girl who has an eating disorder, who can’t stop eating and throwing up? I mean, I had broken blood vessels. I would throw up until I was bleeding out of my nose. I just couldn’t stop, and that’s kind of been a theme in my life” (Kickham, 2017). Sadly, Nilsson, along with many other celebrities whom have spoken up about eating disorders, has largely attributed a wide range of her problems as stemming from anxiety due to pressures of society and media influence. Nilsson struggled most with bulimia, “a complex disorder that’s often caused by several factors including biological, psychological, and environmental influences, genetic factors, low self-esteem, negative body image, other mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, relationship issues, the need to feel in control, and other stressors” (Miller, 2017).
Overlap between eating disorders paired with addictions are not uncommon. Nilsson’s admittance of bulimia as well as alcoholism is widely familiar. Julie Friedman, Ph.D., an executive director of binge eating treatment and recovery at Eating Recovery Center says, “it’s common for people struggling with an eating disorder to have a substance abuse issue and vice versa. The biology is so similar…Patients with bulimia, binge-eating disorder, and substance-abuse disorders have an underactive reward center in their brain, so they’re motivated to seek out rewards and seek more of them than most people in order to get a feel-good response, And they’ll seek out anything that boosts that reward—including drugs, alcohol, and food” (Miller, 2017).
Though eating disorders often act as suppressors hiding difficulties coping with other emotions, experiences or events, it’s important to understand “eating disorders” as an umbrella term with the possibility of uniqueness as well as the need to end the stigmas surrounding them and raise awareness of their dangers.
For more information on eating disorders, read here for helpful links and information.
Likewise, the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237 and a 24-hour crisis line, text “NEDA” to 741741, offer facts and support.
Herman, L. (2017, July 27). A Senator Tried to Make an Eating Disorder “Joke” About Republicans’ Failed “Skinny” Repeal. Retrieved July 30, 2017, from https://www.allure.com/story/senator-eating-disorder-joke-failed-republican-health-care-bill
Kickham, D. (2017, July 27). Britt From ‘The Bachelor’ Opens Up About Her Eating Disorder While Filming. Retrieved July 30, 2017, from http://elitedaily.com/entertainment/britt-bachelor-eating-disorder/2029911/
Miller, K. (2017, July 28). This ‘Bachelor’ Star Is Opening Up About Her Struggles With Bulimia And Addiction. Retrieved July 30, 2017, from http://www.womenshealthmag.com/health/bachelor-star-on-her-bulimia
Nutrition. (n.d.). Eating Disorders. Retrieved July 30, 2017, from https://www.nutrition.gov/subject/nutrition-and-health-issues/eating-disorders