What are the indicators that an eating disorder has led to suicidal ideation? Are there shifts in mood or patterns of behavior to look for in people who battle this disease? How common is suicide in the disordered eating population, and which signs need to be taken seriously as cries for help or intervention? (Note: This post contains a trigger warning.)
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.)
I have taken numerous stabs at eating disorder recovery in the past decade, and until just a couple years ago, these attempts were unsuccessful. Why did I continue to revert back to an illness that sabotaged all the dreams and plans I envisioned for my young life? The answer is simple, but it eluded me for years, and perhaps it has eluded you too. So here is the truth I have since come to learn—you have to want eating disorder recovery for yourself. This must be the purpose that fuels your desire, resolve, and persistence to heal. Otherwise, the motivation you feel at the start of this journey will be unsustainable and short-lived once the obstacles emerge. Once I made that connection, it transformed my whole mindset around healing, so this is why I cannot stress enough, you have to want eating disorder recovery for yourself—and no one else.
There's a new Weight Watchers weight loss application (app) for kids called Kurbo. When I first heard about Kurbo I felt a little nauseous. It’s precisely the sort of thing that a young, adolescent me – embroiled in an eating disorder – would have latched onto as a source of “inspiration” to fuel my illness. I was curious as to how Weight Watchers, recently rebranded as WW, would market and defend their new product – and why they thought the app was even remotely a good idea.
Have the attitudes and conversations around female body image shifted in the era of #MeToo? Is this movement helping to reinforce how bodies should be viewed and talked about? Has it encouraged women to love, accept, and embrace their own bodies, as opposed to self-deprecation and shame? Will positive changes take root, so that female body image is less distorted in the era of #MeToo?
Is it possible that an improved body image can prevent eating disorders? Research has been fairly consistent in identifying the link between body image issues and eating disorders. So, can school-based intervention programs help reduce the onset of eating disorders in young people by giving them the tools to develop high body esteem and satisfaction?
There have been countless moments during my time in both outpatient therapy and inpatient treatment when a certain fear held me back from embracing true recovery—the question, "Who am I without my eating disorder?" I knew the illness had starved my body, wrecked my relationships, consumed my mind, and seduced me into harmful decisions, but I clung to it still as my one source of identity. I was terrified of losing the behaviors that I assumed—inaccurately—made me both special and unique.
Abstinence and contingency-planning may be essential for preventing relapse in the early stages of eating disorder recovery. But recovery can evolve over time. Through traveling, I learned to manage unplanned and unpredictable situations rather than constantly grasping at the illusion of control. This helped me feel less anxious about ambiguity and became an instrumental part of my long-term recovery.
Eating disorders and vacation: Do you find it difficult—maybe even impossible—to enjoy a summer vacation without the influence of your eating disorder at the forefront of your mind? I can relate, and it's a continuous process for me to release those obsessions and insecurities around exercise or food anytime I travel outside my normal routine. Recovery from eating disorders and vacation plans can, however, come together.
New research suggests that poor “interoception” – the process by which we notice and understand internal sensations, like how hungry or thirsty we are –- may contribute to eating disorders. It turns out that when it comes to disordered eating, the common stereotypes that restricting stems from an unrelenting quest for thinness and bingeing is due to a lack of self-control are wrong.