I feel I need to speak to this because it seems to be brought up frequently when I am working with my eating disorder clients. There is a belief both with sufferers and the general population that eating disorders are hierarchical with typical anorexia at the top and binge eating at the bottom. This is incredibly destructive for many reasons but I am going to list 3 (of many) reasons below.
- It interferes with one’s ability to recover. Not only does this send the message that those with anorexia are the most sick, it also tends to tell sufferers and others that there is a hierarchy in terms of who is most worthy of help and/or treatment.
- It both prevents and delays individuals from seeking help when they need it and causes them to suffer much longer than they have to. This belief can cause individuals to suffer in silence longer as the signs of their eating disorder go unnoticed at best or normalized at worst (both by themselves and by the people in their lives). Getting people who struggle with eating disorders to seek treatment is challenging enough. If the belief is that their disorder isn’t serious because they don’t fit the description for typical anorexia, it makes the process of receiving support and believing they deserve it that much more difficult.
- It simply isn’t true. Eating disorders are mental health disorders each with their own set of complications but all with a significant amount of pain. The more we try to rank eating disorders in terms of severity the more we minimize each individual’s experience. Additionally, it isolates each individual who is suffering instead of helping them to realize they are not alone.
This is just the beginning of a very important conversation that I hope we keep having. This belief perpetuates the false notions we have about eating disorders all the time. Why do you believe creating a hierarchy of eating disorders is so destructive? Let me know in the comment section below.