Scenario 1. Your friends want to catch up over lunch, you feel anxious about the menu options and cancel last minute. You miss out and feel excluded.
Scenario 2. You experience an urge to binge, you put things in place to binge in your car, your room, the garage…somewhere hidden. After you are finished binging, you feel intense shame and guilt. You feel uniquely alone, and too a shamed to tell anyone your problem.
Scenario 3. Your parents, partner, or GP insist you “just eat more” or “just exercise and cut out junk food” to help your weight issues. They don’t understand. You feel frustrated and alone in your battle.
If you suffer from an eating disorder, you most likely relate to at least one of the above scenarios. Eating disorders can be a lonely business. Distance can grow in relationships, which worsens your eating disorder.
Why I feel so alone.
A lot of people with eating disorders battle alone without seeking eating disorder treatment. It’s estimated that 20% of females have an undiagnosed eating disorder (*NEDC, 2012b).
It is hard to pin point why this stat is so high, but it suggests people are not talking about eating disorders. Health professionals, teachers and parents are not noticing the signs or asking the questions. There is undoubtedly poor awareness in the community when it comes to eating disorders (you might like to read The Three Most Common Misconceptions About Eating Disorders for examples of common misconceptions).
As well, individuals suffering from disordered eating are not coming forward. While a portion of these individuals may not want help, another portion may be too afraid or ashamed, or not even realise they have an eating disorder. Poor awareness and lack of open discussion about eating disorders, reduces the knowledge set of people in a position to help, as well as causes stigma and shame for sufferers.
Eating disorders involve secrecy. Usually people hide their eating disorder behaviours. They binge and purge in private. And they are dishonest to others when they restrict their eating. Naturally, secrecy creates aloneness and distance grows in relationships. What’s worse, is loved ones become frustrated when they discover truth, and this further creates separation in relationships.
Avoiding food, avoiding people
Most social catch-ups involve food or drinks. Food is often a source of anxiety for people with eating disorders. Further, anxiety is heightened when there is food choice without the opportunity for food preparation and planning (e.g. a cafe menu or friends house). Therefore, social catch-ups can be extremely anxiety-provoking for people with an eating disorder. This means social catch-ups are often avoided, leaving those who suffer from an eating disorder, alone and isolated. Distance can grow in relationships after an accumulation of missed catch-ups.
Feeling alone, but you’re in company.
First thing to realise if you suffer from an eating disorder, is that you are not alone. There are many other people who struggle with an eating disorder. There are plenty of health professionals, who have taken the time to understand eating disorders. There is also most likely one family member or friend who will take the time to “listen” and not judge.
Given feeling alone worsens eating disorder symptoms – the eating disorder becomes your “best friend” and a reliable source of validation or comfort – it can help to reach out and share your story. The first step is always hard, so it may be worth planning. If you are not sure how to start, give the Butterfly Foundation a call – 1800 334 673 – for free professional advice.
How Can Peaceful Mind Psychology Help?
If you feel ready to take the first step towards eating disorder recovery, we are here for you. Our team of psychologists at Peaceful Mind Psychology in Melbourne take pride in our treatment of eating disorders. Our psychologists are experienced in treating all types of eating disorders and body image issues, including anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder and orthorexia. If you would like some professional assistance contact us today at Peaceful Mind Psychology.
*The National Eating Disorders Collaboration. (2012b). Eating disorders in Australia. Sydney: NEDC