Eating Disorders Awareness Week: The Connection with Trauma

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Trigger warning: This post discusses sexual violence. If you need assistance, please visit Crisis Text Line, the National Eating Disorder Association or the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.

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What does trauma have to do with an eating disorder?

This is the question I asked myself over and over again, but it’s a question we don’t seem to talk about.

What did my sexual assault have to do with my eating disorder? I struggled to put the pieces together. I poured over scholarly literature, using my school’s online library to find any research I could that examined the connection between rape and eating disorders.

But the literature was scarce, and even more scarce was the information online that examined the intersection between trauma and eating disorders. The discussions about these issues existed in separate spheres. Sexual assault advocacy seemed to center around helping survivors report the assault, seeking some sort of justice for the atrocity we’ve experienced.

But, to me, the onus is still on the survivor to report–and the shame I felt, the powerlessness, was exacerbated by the feeling that I was supposed to be fighting a battle against my assailant–not a war against myself.

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Eating Disorders Awareness Week: A Letter to My Best Friend’s Professor

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This post was originally published in The Daily Bruin, UCLA’s student newspaper.

Dear My Best Friend’s Professor,

I wanted to start off by letting you know that I think you are amazing. I don’t know the extent of what you do here at UCLA, but I do know that in order to have reached your esteemed position at this university, you have done incredible research and have played a huge part in shaping the minds of tomorrow. For these things, I thank you.

I’m writing to you because I didn’t feel I could adequately express my concerns on the quarterly evaluation form. As you know, your student (my best friend) has been in treatment for her mental health-related difficulties. And as you are well aware, this has taken a toll on her class performance.

My best friend was diagnosed with anorexia this quarter. Her condition steadily worsened. Anorexia was killing her. She should have been hospitalized on the spot.

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Eating Disorders Awareness Week: Bad Body Image ≠ Eating Disorder

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For several years now, I have helped college students plan Eating Disorders Awareness Week events. In honor of this year’s EDAW, I wanted to share a few things I’ve learned.

  1. Almost every campus EDAW program is about body image.

Here’s why that sucks.

Poor body image alone doesn’t cause eating disorders. If it did, then the prevalence of eating disorders would be two or three times what it is. Now, sure, for many who struggle with anorexia and some who struggle with bulimia, body image is a part of the illness. But even then, it is rarely a cause.

Plus, when we focus almost exclusively on body image, we exclude so many people who are struggling because the issue doesn’t resonate for them. They think to themselves, “that’s not why this is happening!” and they disengage.

Finally, focusing on body image minimizes the range of eating disorders that exist and their complexity. Eating disorders are not diets run amok. The are the most persistent and deadly mental illnesses. They’re about a lot more than comparing oneself against airbrushed bodies in magazines, and everyone’s experience is different. As someone who has personally struggled with anorexia in the past, I will never be able to completely understand someone else’s struggle with anorexia—let alone bulimia or binge eating disorder.

  1. Many other EDAW programs are about nutrition.

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Recovery: It Requires Tethers

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I623556d1e6aebbfb83925b44add83613t’s been 11 years since I walked out the doors of my eating disorders treatment program and into a windy, but mild February afternoon.

My time there had felt both quick and endless. The days were long, the nights were short, and the effects were profound.

Unlike many other people who struggle with eating disorders, I didn’t end up having to go back to inpatient treatment ever again. I don’t mean to imply the road from there has been all puppies and rainbows, but I do consider myself incredibly lucky.

Because eating disorders will stick with you.

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#EDAW: Supporting Someone with an Eating Disorder? Here’s What You Need to Hear

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National Eating Disorder Awareness Week is February 22-28. All week long, we’re bringing you blog posts specifically on eating disorder awareness and recovery.

All across the country this imagesweek, people are raising awareness for eating disorders: a group of mental illnesses that kills more people each year than any other.

We are breaking down the stigmas of eating disorders and advocating for those who struggle. While much attention will be brought to the people who suffer with or have recovered from eating disorders this week, there is one group who mostly likely won’t be recognized: support people.

When I struggled with anorexia I felt alone, but with the support of the my friends and family, I was able to see that was far from the truth. So support people, this one is for you. Here are the top five things you need to hear that no one is telling you.
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#EDAW: 7 Facts About Eating Disorders

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National Eating Disorder Awareness Week is February 22-28. All week long, we’re bringing you blog posts specifically on eating disorder awareness and recovery.

10957867_10152558910217676_294281118006125873_nEating disorders are severe mental illnesses which have been portrayed inaccurately for decades. Although public awareness of the reality of eating disorders is improving, harmful stereotypes are still distressingly common. Eating disorders are not a matter of vanity or a “phase.” They are serious illnesses with life-and-death outcomes.

Here are a few facts to help get you educated this Eating Disorder Awareness Week:

1. 10-15% of individuals with anorexia or bulimia are male. Binge eating disorder is thought to affect males and females nearly equally.

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