Eating disorders have been trivialized for decades. However, people struggling with these illnesses have an elevated risk of death by suicide compared to other psychiatric disorders, with bulimia having the highest attempted suicide rates. High comorbidity associated with bulimia – and the dearth of research – makes it difficult to tease apart what contributes to suicide risk. But it’s important for people to know that both bulimia, and the suicidality that accompanies it, can be treated and overcome. (Note: This post contains a trigger warning.)
Depression and Eating Disorders
While anorexia, bulimia, and other related illnesses can affect the members of any population, evidence shows eating disorders have a disproportionate impact on youth in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) community. As of 2018, more than 50 percent of U.S. residents between the ages of 13 and 24, who self-identify as LGBTQ, have suffered from an eating disorder at some point in their lives. This research is based on a nationwide survey of 1,034 people within this demographic, and it stands to reason, this steep percentage is a result of the unique obstacles or traumas that LGBTQ individuals often experience. So let's discuss how eating disorders can impact youth in the LGBTQ community—and how to support those who face this painful reality.
Eating disorder deaths can be compared to a slow suicide. It often goes without saying, there are severe physical and psychological effects associated with an eating disorder—but are you aware that every 62 minutes, a person dies from the complications of an eating disorder? This makes an eating disorder the deadliest of any mental illness on record. The reason that an eating disorder is so harmful and potentially fatal is that it impacts both the sufferer's mind and body. If untreated, this destructive combination can turn an eating disorder into a tortuous and slow suicide attempt.
Are the effects of trauma tempting you to withdraw into your eating disorder? Are you all too familiar with that bone-deep torment, roused by memories you didn’t choose to recall but might never forget? Can you feel the aftershocks surging through your body, invading the corners of your mind? Do you numb out from the world, from the pain, from yourself? Have your methods of coping turned into behaviors that you can no longer control? Did you know this struggle involving trauma and an eating disorder is not yours to fight alone?
Shame can keep you trapped in an eating disorder. Shame is insidious, creeping into our self-esteem and wreaking havoc on our thoughts and feelings. Eating disorders come with both shame and guilt, but the difference is important. Shame is the feeling that “I am bad,” while guilt is the feeling that, “I did something bad.” The insidious part about shame is that we begin to see ourselves and the eating disorder as one. When we do this, we become all bad and shame keeps us trapped in the eating disorder.
At some point in your eating disorder recovery, you will need to release anger. Recovery is an interesting process and it can also be tough. When anger comes up, it’s important to know how to handle it so that it doesn’t get stuck in your body and trigger eating disorder patterns (How to Channel Anger Constructively). Take a look at these helpful suggestions to help you release anger as it arises in your eating disorder recovery.
As a mental health advocate, I would like to share with you how it has been important to me to engage in conversations with other like-minded individuals suffering from a mental illness, and, in turn, share with them some of my own experience in battling my eating disorder, bulimia. I do not think it would have been possible to maintain my eating disorder recovery for a few years by now, without having shared some of my struggles with other people who could relate to my journey simply because they have had to cope with their own issues when it comes to mental health.
I caught myself thinking the other day, "I wish I JUST had an eating disorder" or "I wish I JUST had bipolar." Meaning, of course, that I wish I only had to deal with one of my many mental health diagnoses as opposed to dealing with them all at once.
21 October 2010 Too much strain. Too many failures. Never better. Never good enough. I can't handle it anymore. Sorry, I love you, Angela I had tried. God knows I had tried, but I couldn't seem to recover from anorexia no matter what I did. I just couldn't seem to find the strength to get better and really live. So I decided to kill myself. I climbed up on a chair, wrapped my favorite red scarf around my neck several times, and then tied it to the chandelier in my dining room. I made sure it was tight. All I had to do was kick the chair away from me. I couldn't do it.
Depression and anorexia go hand in hand. And it doesn't end during recovery. It started out slowly. Not following my meal plan. Eliminating foods here and there. It's okay. I'm still eating. Then the apathy started. I couldn't seem to do anything. Dishes went unwashed. Laundry piled up. My study exploded with paper and books, piles everywhere. A thin layer of soap scum accumulated on the tub's surface. Bills didn't get paid. I couldn't read. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't write. I couldn't even think. Then on Sunday night, I took a bunch of laxatives. Why?