Remington Reichard (A Look Inside)
November 4, 2017
A Look Inside
No one person is immune to depression. It pays no attention to race, age, or sexuality, it just happens. As a victim of this disease and also a psychology major, I believe these topics are important to discuss. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, approximately eight million people in the U.S. alone suffer from these related diseases. Eating disorder statistics provided by the National Eating Disorder Association are even higher, indicating that ten million American women suffer from eating disorders.
Unrealistic perfectionism concerning body image and all or nothing approaches remain to be a very common habit in first world consumer cultures. Although the exact cause of eating disorders remains unknown, it is generally believed that a combination of biological, psychological, and also environmental abnormalities contribute to the development of these illnesses. What I want to explore is whether eating disorders and depression fall hand in hand. Why do people choose these lifestyles? What made me fall into these habits? Why is it such a popular diagnosis? And, how can we decrease the number of those affected by it?
Not only does this video, go into depth concerning these topics, it also gives an actual insight to real people’s lives as well. Young girls who told their stories throughout the video Eating Disorders: Mind, Body, and Society shared similar thoughts, as do many other sources. Julie Harrower states in the video that, “Eating disorders are an atypical type of eating pattern which can have quite serious effects both psychologically and physiologically and can be fatal” (Online classroom Ltd. 2001). In addition to this, Ira Saker, an eating disorders specialist at Langone Medical Center at New York University states, “Depression may lead to eating disorders, but there’s also evidence that eating disorders can result in depression.” In order to determine whether depression is an underlying factor for eating disorders, doctors will often spit out a handful of questions concerning multiple topics. Topics such as feelings of sadness, irritability or anger, loss of appetite, and loss of sleep are often discussed in hopes to discover a diagnosis. To my concern, it is almost essential to be treated for these disorders. Typically, disorders as such begin to develop during adolescent years or young adulthood.
It was during early eighth grade when I realized I was beginning to change my eating habits. For me, everything happened so fast. Depression is often a demon among itself, consistently persuading you how unhungry you are, how miserable your life is, and reminds you of pretty much any negative thing you could think of. I could go from being the happiest girl you could ever meet, to one of the saddest. After a while, I didn’t take notice of the symptoms anymore… it became such a regular thing. For years, I kept this problem to myself. Of course, people would question why I had been thinning out, or why I hadn’t been eating, but I could never truly answer those questions. Honestly, I wasn’t even sure I knew how to approach my disorder, let alone address to others what I had been going through. I think that was the hardest obstacle I had to face. Above all, before any healing process begins, you must first learn to love yourself. At this point in my life, I can honestly say I never thought I would be where I am today. Throughout my senior year of high school, a lot of unimaginable stuff happened. It wasn’t until that year when I learned how to cope with who I was and who I had been becoming. I had just gotten out of a toxic relationship of five years, lost a family friend to suicide, lost my great grandmother due to old age, and lost some close friends as well. I did not realize how much that was going to set me back. I had fallen into depression due to my loss of appetite, hardly eating a single meal. One morning, I approached my mom with the inner pain I had been dealing with, expressing the sense of torture I was putting my body through, both physically and mentally. Because of this, for the first time, I reached out for help.
My experience wasn’t quite what I had expected. In fact, it was the opposite. A Wednesday morning before school, I found myself in a state of mind which insisted I stay in bed. I texted my mom, “I don’t feel good, going in late,” but to my surprise, she had the day off. As I walked downstairs there were so many things running through my mind. After contemplating what I would say, I walked outside, asked her to write me a note for school, and while doing so turned around, no longer facing her. My mom looked at me, her eyes full of questions, wondering what was wrong. She claimed I had been quiet lately and said I hardly even act like myself anymore. At that moment, the words I had been dying to spill for months came flooding out of my mouth, “I think I’m depressed.” Before this, I never pictured having to discuss something so personal with my mom. She was my best friend, but this was different. This was serious. Part of the reason I held off for so long was because telling others made me feel weak. But that day, I felt a sense of pain. I had just told my mom what had been hurting me for so long, answering her question as to why I had been acting so indifferent, and yet, never once did she offer me any sort of help. Now, I wish I never had.
I was visiting the doctor for my yearly checkup when she asked if I, for any reason, would want to take a test concerning depression. Caught off guard, I instantly shot up off the table, spitting out the word, “No!” Moments later, my mom spoke up and explained what she thought had been going on. After talking with my doctor about all I had been facing, she had nothing to say to me. Not one word. As I sat there in tears, I wondered why my mom had put me in this position. Why didn’t she talk to me about it first? Why did she go behind my back? We talked about everything, we were like two peas in a pod, why didn’t she say anything? We left the office that day and I never looked back. I had felt completely alone. Thinking no one was there for me, I realized I needed to find a way to approach the situation myself, and I did. I began by taking little steps, setting an alarm with a positive message attached, leaving sticky notes around the house with a positive quote written on it, eating small snacks throughout the day to help regain appetite, waking up earlier so I would attend school, and lastly, getting rid of all the negative people or surroundings in my life. The thing is, as a victim, you think you’re alone but, in reality, you’re not.
For teenagers, there are so many resources available, but as you get older, that changes. Hotlines, government funded programs, resorts, therapies, at home methods, and sometimes even institutions are open 24 hours for patients seeking help. Due to the complication of adults finding an available treatment, I found that the most popular choice for people suffering from this disease is to enlist themselves into an eating disorders program. At the University of North Carolina, Cynthia Bulik, the director, stated that, “Eating disorders are typically ascribed to the young: in particular, female teenagers. But experts say that portrayal is inaccurate. Adults develop eating disorders too, some much later in life. Because of the lingering stereotypes about who gets sick, they can face lower rates of diagnosis, unique medical complications and limited treatment options, as well as the stigma that comes with having a disease associated with teens.” Buliks program launched in early 2003. Originally, she had expected to see primarily adolescents, but that was not the case. “We are seeing both women and men in midlife and beyond who are presenting for treatment,” said Bulik, including how she had done research indicating that 13 percent of women 50 and older often exhibit symptoms of eating disorders. From a medical perspective, “that’s a serious concern.” After doing a significant amount of research, psychologists found that “adults with eating disorders typically fall into three categories: those who have struggled with disordered eating since adolescence, but don’t develop a full-blown eating disorder until later in adulthood, those who may have successfully been treated for an eating disorder as a kid but relapse as an adult, and those who develop eating issues for the first time as an older person,” stated West Hartford psychologist, Margo Maine. For this reason, and many others, I believe it’s important for those affected by these diseases to understand that people care. They will listen to you.
People often express that our society’s expectations are constantly destroying the individual perspective. Years ago, during the preindustrial societies, thickness on a woman meant she consisted of high standards and a sense of attractiveness, not “fat, overweight, or considered outside the social norm.” In fact, it was not until recent years when females began altering how others would perceive them. “It’s very different today. Thin is in, and women and girls are bombarded with images of the glamorously starving,” states an anonymous speaker in Eating Disorders: Mind, Body, and Society. While young girls are thin, they often fall to the pressure of those around them. One girl said, “I was pressured to be thin because of all the magazines and stuff. I think that creates a lot of low self-esteem for people. If you’re not a size zero, then people think you have to go on a diet.” But this is not the only factor. I have watched the full length of this video at least four times now, and each time the words of these young girls speaks louder volumes. Many underlying factors have yet to be discovered, both genetically and psychologically. Saker states, “They become obsessed with perfectionism. That perfectionism begins to focus on what they eat. But underlying it is depression and anxiety. Often, these patients have suffered from a lot of emotional trauma.”
Jasmine, an adult woman now, but who suffered for many years, shares her story today. Proudly, as she should be, she explains all the emotions and actions she took to regain self-confidence. As a young girl, she was naturally thin due to sports and biological features. “Never having been a person who works extremely well under pressure, I didn’t think that I measured up to my peers and I didn’t believe I deserved to be in the school. I was constantly comparing my abilities, my grades, and my body to those of other people, judging myself unworthy, and feeling depressed. I had difficulty expressing those feelings and was sinking deeper and deeper into depression.” Jasmine had been exposed to a genetic disposition to developing an eating disorder. Aware of both her mother and grandmother suffering from related diseases, she knew the experience she was about to endure. Ironically enough, Jasmine said “the one thing that had given me a sense of control (my eating disorder) became the very thing that spiraled out of my control.” Several years after graduating high school, she stopped carrying the burden alone and reached out for professional help. She took a screening at the university she had been attending at the time, which then began her many years of treatment. She entered therapy where they told her if she did not tell her parents, she would involuntarily be committed to a hospital. “I felt betrayed and backed into a corner, but the scare tactic worked. Feeling exposed, ashamed and terrified, I told my mother.” Jasmine’s parents fought with their insurance company long and hard, trying to get treatment costs covered in order for their daughter to receive the treatment necessary to cure her illness, or at least attempt to. In the United States, said treatments can range from $500 to $2,800 per day. Shortly after informing the insurance company that their daughter was going to kill herself, they approved only two days in a treatment facility, two days.
Unfortunately, only about 1 in 10 people with eating disorders receive treatment. Eating disorder statistics show that about eighty percent of girls and women who access care do not receive the intensity of treatment needed to stay in recovery, they are usually sent home weeks before the recommended stay is fulfilled. “During my third year in graduate school, I began to have several setbacks. I once again became focused on my weight and body, and started struggling with feelings of depression.” Realizing she would soon be faced with similar obstacles from before, again, Jasmine reentered herself into another eating disorder facility. She admits, if it weren’t for the resources Jasmine’s family and doctors made available to her, who knows where she would be today. With the help of a good therapist, four years later she stated, “In the end, I was very fortunate that my parents were able to find the money for me to remain at the treatment facility for as long as necessary. Down the road, I stayed almost three months, during which time I gathered coping tools and gained a better understanding of myself.” Today, Jasmine is a doctor of psychology, a wife, a mother, and a survivor of both eating disorders and depression. “I consider myself 100 percent recovered and cannot imagine ever going back to my eating disorder. I want to be a role-model for my daughter and I want to break the cycle of eating disorders in my family. I accept the challenges life brings and allow myself to feel everything I should. I am in a place I never thought I would be, and I would not change it for the world.”
Ten to fifteen percent of all Americans suffer from some sort of serious eating disorder. Without treatment, it is said that up to twenty percent of people with serious eating disorders die. Because of this, it’s time we all take a step in the direction of recovery! According to Carolyn Costin, founder of Monte Nido, a residential treatment facility in California, says that recovery is, “When you can accept your natural body size and shape and no longer have a self-destructive or unnatural relationship with food or exercise. When food and weight take a proper perspective in your life and what you weigh is not more important than who you are; in fact, all numbers are of little or no importance at all. When you will not compromise your health or betray your soul to look a certain way, wear a certain size, or reach a certain number on a scale. When you do not use eating disorder behaviors to deal with, distract from, or cope with other problems.” Eating disorders take up a significant portion of your time. From the second you wake up until the moment you go to sleep, you are constantly putting all your time and energy into your behaviors. But, when your eating disorder is no longer present, you feel free, and it allows for so many blessings to enter your life. After experiencing multiple moments of being symptom-free, I know how incredible life could be. I am proof.
Peter, Jaret. “Eating disorders and depression.” WebMD. 2015.
Online Classroom Ltd., 2001.