Eating Disorders: Destigmatizing and Raising Awareness
This project is a requirement of the GOA Abnormal Psychology Course. Using the process of design thinking, a challenge in the world of mental health was identified, interviews and research were undertaken, and a solution prototype was developed. Below you will find information about the identified area of concern and my proposed solution. Please feel free to provide feedback on this prototype, using questions such as “How might we…”, “What if….?”, “I wonder….”, “I like…”, and “I wish.” Keep the comments positive, please. For more information on the process of Design Thinking, click here.
Hi! My name is Caroline Ortiz and I am a senior at Providence Day School in Charlotte, North Carolina. When I entered high school, I noticed an immediate increase in the prevalence of eating disorders in my own life. I had never been exposed to those living with eating disorders and I quickly realized how little I knew about them. As I began to realize some of my close friends struggled, and still do struggle with eating disorders, I found how important this subject is to me. As I started educating myself through outside sources and through this Abnormal Psychology course, I feel more equipped to empathize with those living with eating disorders. However, it didn’t take long for me to realize the lack of education and the stigma surrounding eating disorders in my school and community. I am passionate about helping people learn how to be more sensitive and knowledgeable of this subject that way we can all lead those struggling with an eating disorder to recovery.
What are eating disorders and what is their prevalence?
Eating disorders are serious and potentially life threatening mental illness that can affect people of all age, sex, socioeconomic class, and race. National surveys show that 20 million women and 10 million men living in America will experience an eating disorder at some point in their lives. Every 62 minutes at least one person dies from an eating disorder. Some of the most common eating disorders include: Anorexia Nervosa (intense fear of gaining weight, not getting enough calories, unable to see how underweight there are), Bulimia Nervosa (binge eating followed by making up for eating through fasting, vomiting, exercise, etc) and Binge Eating Disorder (binge eating but without the purging). However, as some people may not know, there are many different forms of eating disorders that you may not have heard of. For example, Pica is the eating of substances for a long period of time that isn’t considered to be of nutritional value. Eating disorders can come in different forms. They don’t often fit into neat categories, and not everyone experiences the same kinds of signs and symptoms. However, some of these more common symptoms include: weight loss, dieting, intense obsession with food, refusing to eat, food rituals, skipping meals, mood swings, and looking in mirror for flaws in appearance.
What’s the stigma and why is it an issue?
Stigmas are a difficult thing to understand. It is often hard to pinpoint exactly what a stigma is without overgeneralizing the stigma to all people, places, communities, etc. And in the world of mental illness, it can be hard to say where stigmas come from. With that being said, I’m going to explain what I believe are the most common forms of stigmas surrounding eating disorders. Primarily, it is commonly believed that eating disorders are a lifestyle choice that can be quit at any given moment. The common misconception is that eating disorders are just a “fad” or “phase” that a person goes through. The reality is that eating disorders are complex mental illnesses that cause significant physical, emotional, and social impairment just as any other mental illness does. In addition, people believe that eating disorders only affect teenage girls, which now that you can see from the previous statistics, is not true at all. People think that eating disorders are only about physical appearance, and that those with eating disorders are consumed with how others see them and how skinny they are. By viewing eating disorders in this way, feelings of shame and blame are placed on the person. This person can then become nervous about disclosing concerns of their disorder in fear that others will minimize their difficulties. This creates a domino effect of self blame, shame, fear, withdrawal from social groups, and avoidance of treatment.
This video includes some common myths about eating disorders. Watch the video and see if any of your misconceptions are busted!
How can YOU help?
The goal of my project is to continue to educate and create awareness of the issue of eating disorders to adolescents in my community. To help continue this movement, you can help by learning to become more sensitive, thoughtful, and empathetic when discussing the issue of eating disorders. Don’t be afraid to reach out to those struggling, ask questions when you feel you don’t understand something, and familiarize yourself with mental health within your own community. In my school, I’ll be handing out posters about the myths of eating disorders (see below) in order to eliminate the stigma.
If you feel inclined to do the same, do so! Have other ideas? Go onto the discussion page below and posts your thoughts:
Feel like you may be struggling with an eating disorder? Have any questions or concerns about your own diet? Don’t be afraid to reach out for help.
National Eating Disorders Hotline: (800) 931- 2237
“Stigma and Eating Disorders: Is There Evidence of Negative Attitudes towards Anorexia Nervosa among Women in the Community?” Taylor & Francis, www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09638230600902559.
“Destigmatizing Eating Disorders.” Her Campus, www.hercampus.com/school/tulane/destigmatizing-eating-disorders.
Smink, Frédérique R. E., et al. “Epidemiology of Eating Disorders: Incidence, Prevalence and Mortality Rates.” SpringerLink, Current Science Inc., 27 May 2012, link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11920-012-0282-y.
“Eating Disorder Statistics • National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders.” National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, www.anad.org/education-and-awareness/about-eating-disorders/eating-disorders-statistics/.
NEDCAustralia. YouTube, YouTube, 15 Mar. 2015, www.youtube.com/watch?v=tbMi_ygqRYU.