I have always believed that there are stigmas associated with eating disorders, but until recently I didn’t see any evidence of this. And I still haven’t in my every-day life. However, I was seized by the desire to read up about the subject and surprisingly I found a lot of evidence for stigma.
First of all, it seems that clinicians, meaning psychologists, therapists, and psychiatrists, have more negative attitudes towards eating disordered individuals than towards other patients. This kind of took me aback, because I’ve never experienced this, and I don’t see why that would be the case. But apparently clinicians get frustrated, have negative attitudes about personality traits associated with EDs, worry, and feel incompetent. It makes sense that they would get frustrated, because to most people eating disorders seem completely illogical, and therefore maybe like they should be easier to fix. But they don’t go away very quickly. This is also why they feel incompetent: when they can’t make the problem go away, they think they’re not doing a good job. I guess I can also see the personality trait thing too. Personality disorders are often associated with bulimia, for example, and those disorders tend to be difficult for clinicians to handle. Over the summer at my psych job we had a meeting once entirely dedicated to the treatment of borderline personality disorder. The clinicians there kept warning each other about borderline patients “turning them against each other” and stuff like that. I’ve never met someone with borderline, but it was unbelievable to me that (very good) professional therapists were so insensitive. Basically they were just instilling prejudices against people with that problem, and there were patients who were coming to them with that problem.
Have you guys ever experienced stigma from a therapist or psych professional?
I just can’t believe that this kind of thing actually exists.
The other part of the stigma is that of society against people with eating disorders.
According to this study http://thescholarship.ecu.edu/bitstream/handle/10342/1899/Daniels_ecu_0600M_10038.pdf done in 2009, people view bulimia as less desirable than anorexia. They also think people with anorexia are mildly to blame for their disorder, whereas bulimic individuals are highly to blame. They thought that both anorexics and bulimics had a very strong need to get attention, would not be willing to have either group as a best friend, offer an interview to, or rent to. Apparently in their eyes people with EDs are very unlikely to be good friends, have a successful marriage, be a productive worker, or be a good parent. And lastly, people thought that bulimic people were highly irritating versus somewhat irritating for anorexics.
Ok, what the hell? Where do people get the idea that we’re to blame for our disorders? We never asked for these behaviors to take control of us. We never wanted to hate ourselves every minute of the day and agonize over things that most people don’t care about. Even if someone wants to stay with their disorder until the end of their days I wouldn’t say they’re to blame for it. Besides, even if they are to blame, it wouldn’t help. Blame just increases behaviors, and that makes people even sicker.
I’m also sad that people had such negative views about the friendliness of people with EDs, and the fact that they think we can’t have fulfilling lives. I think it’s very possible for eating disordered inviduals to be good, caring, hard working people. If any of you guys told your friend that you had an ED, would they automatically stop liking you? It sounds like the answer is yes, which is very discouraging.
Have any of you experienced this kind of stigma?