I recently read Wasted by Marya Hornbacher. This was the second memoir of hers that I have read, the first being Madness. In Madness, Hornbacher talked about her bipolar disorder. In Wasted she covers her eating disorder. As I read through this book, I realized that I didn’t know very much about eating disorders. I knew the basics, such as the three most common types: anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder; but I wanted to learn more about this form of mental illness.
According to ANAD (The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders), eating disorders have the highest mortality rate compared to all mental illnesses; at least 30 million people in the United States live with an eating disorder. Although I was already aware that eating disorders affected people of all ages and genders, I thought it telling that that fact was often mentioned throughout my research.
Anorexia is defined by not getting enough calories in; leading to a significantly low body weight. Someone with anorexia may not see themselves as being under weight, and/or may not see the seriousness of their situation. Those experiencing anorexia often feel a painful level of anxiety over being or becoming fat.
ANAD states that 0.9% of women in the US suffer from anorexia at some point in their lifetime and of all anorexic deaths, 1 out of 5 of them is by suicide. With these upsetting statistics, it is reassuring to know that there are some people in recovery from anorexia who are doing great work by educating the public, advocating for treatment, and supporting each other.
One brilliant young woman in the UK took to Instagram to record her journey in recovery and promote body confidence. You can find her on Instagram as my_life_without_ana.
Bulimia involves recurrent episodes of binge eating, which is eating more than an average person would eat in a two-hour time span with a feeling of little to no control. The binge eating is often followed by self-induced vomiting, laxatives, excessive exercise, or fasting in an attempt to control weight. Those with bulimia are very anxious over the possibility of weight gain and often obsess over feeling fat.
ANAD shares that 1.5% of women in the US suffer from bulimia in their lifetime. 1 in 10 of those with bulimia also have a substance use disorder, often alcoholism. The beginning part of Marya Hornbacher’s book Wasted provides a personal look at her life with bulimia.
Binge Eating Disorder
Binge Eating Disorder, according to ANAD, “is defined [by] recurrent episodes of binge eating. An episode of binge eating includes eating an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would eat within a two hour time period, with a sense of lack of control over eating during the episode.” A binge eater will eat until uncomfortably full and often eats alone due to embarrassment. Binge eating is often followed by feelings of depression. 2.8% of American adults suffer from binge eating disorder in their lifetime.
Eating disorders are a group of disorders that are dangerous and potentially deadly. It is vital that someone experiencing an eating disorder receive professional help through all stages of their recovery. To find help, visit your primary care physician for a referral, contact the National Eating Disorder Hotline,or visit ANAD’s website for more information.
Eating Disorder Hotline Phone Number: (800) 931-2237