June 7, 2015

Media Spotlight on Anorexia: Harmful or Helpful?

curvy vs. skinny

“I am not thin enough.”

“You look gross and fat.”

“You must lose more weight.”

Even at my lowest point, it was never enough. The life threatening disease of anorexia kept me chained in this deadly dance. Never thin enough, never good enough and certainly never happy with my body.

The disease of anorexia is complex. It really isn’t about how much one weighs, it is about control.

“If I weigh X, I will be in control.”

“If I lose five more pounds I will be lovable.”

It may manifest differently from individual to individual, but it is truly all the same. Trying to gain control in a world where there is no control is the painful existence of living with anorexia.

Recently, the national and international news media has been shining an irresponsible and potentially dangerous spotlight on anorexia because of a young woman who has starved herself to the point of weighing 40 pounds.

Barely alive, she has reached out through social media and crowdfunding as a way to get help. I applaud her bravery, her desire to seek help and her determination to raise the funds needed to get treatment. This raises questions about insurance coverage, or lack thereof for eating disorders, but that is a topic for another time. My heart truly does go out for her, and I know exactly how much pain she is in. I get it. I’ve been there and I carry sadness for her struggle.

But the news media’s sensationalistic approach may have unintended, yet dire consequences.

What the media fails to recognize is that anorexia is a disease of comparison.

When I was in the depth of my disease, I constantly compared myself to others who were struggling. Saying things to myself like, “I am not sick enough,” “I am not as thin as she is so I really don’t need treatment.” Even when I was in multiple inpatient programs, barely alive myself, I looked at others and compared myself. It is a dangerous, but very real dynamic that occurs in someone with anorexia.

By focusing on this woman’s weight and showing the extreme photos, what message is the media sending to all the thousands, if not millions of people who are struggling? The media is unwittingly supporting the mindset of “I need to be on death’s door to get help.” The horrific images splashed all over the internet, as well as the story itself are saying to people with eating disorders, “You must be almost dead in order to get help.”

I understand the media thrives on sensationalism and may not know the complex details of anorexia, but I believe they have a responsibility in getting the facts right and taking into account how their portrayal to the masses may impact others struggling with the disease.

Awareness is key to understanding. Eating disorders are a serious and deadly illness. The media has the power to impact one’s recovery, so why not highlight a story about recovery?

I know that if I were still in my illness, and I came across her story, it would most certainly have made me dive deeper into the depths of the hell.

So, please, think before sharing her story. Get all the facts, and please consider all the other people who are fighting against this deadly disease.

It may save her life, but this story could potentially end many others.


Relephant Read:

Recovery Road: My Journey into Anorexia & Back.


Author: Treena Hall

Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: Flickr


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