Please don’t say ‘anorexic’ when you mean thin. Anorexia is an illness

0
54
Please don't say 'anorexic' when you mean thin. Anorexia is an illness



The term ‘anorexic’ has become a synonym for thin, slim and skinny (Picture: Phébe Lou Morson for Metro.co.uk)If someone said a person ‘looked anorexic’, it’s safe to say you know what they mean.
The term ‘anorexic’ has become a synonym for thin, slim and skinny.
Last year, Kim Kardashian posted a series of Instagram stories where her sisters Kendall and Khloe bombarded her with comments over how slim she was. Khloe complimented Kim on her hair and hourglass figure, before pointing to her waist and exclaiming ‘but she’s anorexic here.’
This is problematic for a number of reasons. Anorexic is a term to describe someone who has anorexia nervosa – an eating disorder characterised by a paralysing fear of weight gain.
While a common symptom of anorexia is weight loss, the condition is in itself a mental illness. This means people can struggle with all the horrendous psychological symptoms – fear of foods, severe anxiety around eating, strained relationships with family – without being underweight or resembling the emaciated figures commonly associated with the condition.
The illness’s name itself – anorexia nervosa – means ‘nervous loss of appetite’. It does not describe a physical condition.
By using ‘anorexic’ to mean ‘thin’, we’re perpetuating the myth that eating disorders are only serious if the person suffering is severely underweight, which is completely untrue.
I was diagnosed with an eating disorder while at university, after months of struggling with restriction and over-exercise. I confided in a friend, pouring my heart out about how cripplingly painful I found being around food, how being underweight made me suffer with palpitations and how the illness made me an angry, irritable person I didn’t recognise. Her response?
My life was entirely taken over by my illness, but because I didn’t look emaciated like the images in so many women’s magazines at that time, my friend didn’t take me seriously.
‘Oh. Well, you don’t look anorexic.’
After the pain of finally admitting to myself I was ‘sick enough’ to deserve help, that one comment made me feel totally invalidated.
My life was entirely taken over by my illness, but because I didn’t look emaciated like the images in so many women’s magazines at that time, my friend didn’t take me seriously.
You see, the diagnostic criteria for anorexia are exceptionally precise. This means that while restrictive eating disorders are relatively common, very few people are actually diagnosed with anorexia nervosa.
When I was treated, there was a set body mass index (BMI) that would determine whether I had anorexia nervosa or an eating disorder not otherwise specified (a condition now known as otherwise specified eating or feeding disorder, or OSFED).
If I drifted even 0.1 of a BMI point over that, I technically didn’t have anorexia anymore – which of course, led me to resist putting on weight because I felt that once I wasn’t in that low enough zone I no longer deserved help. And you’d better believe that comment from my friend sent me back that way.
I was far from the only person to struggle with this way of thinking. The fact is, eating disorders can lead to extremely dangerous physical consequences whether you’re underweight, overweight or in the middle.
More: News

Restricted eating can lead to infertility, osteoporosis and, like I experienced, irregular heart rhythms. Self-induced vomiting can cause internal injuries to the stomach and lungs, as well as severe electrolyte loss that can lead to heart failure.
By reducing the name of one eating disorder to simply mean ‘thin’, we turn the meaning of an eating disorder to simply refer to weight – a single symptom of many.
And while this may seem trivial to some, we’re already in a position where people are turned away from specialised eating disorder treatment for not being at a low enough weight, meaning they’re left to get worse.
Continuing to reduce the concept of anorexia to just size and weight permeates the minds of those struggling, who are left, like I was, feeling like they aren’t sick enough to deserve treatment and steadily getting worse.
It’s a small change. If you want to say someone or something is thin, say ‘thin’, say ‘skinny’, say what you want. Just don’t say ‘anorexic’.

More support

If you suspect you, a family member or friend has an eating disorder, contact Beat on 0808 801 0677 or at help@beateatingdisorders.org.uk, for information and advice on the best way to get appropriate treatment

MORE: Owning a Barbie in a wheelchair made me feel accepted
MORE: Psychiatric workers struggle with their mental health too
MORE: I don’t tell people I had childhood cancer because I know it will change how they treat me

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here