Advice by Kaela: Is There Really A Hierarchy of Eating Disorders?
By Kaela Scott
Q: I struggle with binge eating disorder but when I talk to people everyone tells me my disorder isn’t as bad or as serious as other people who struggle with anorexia and bulimia. Is there really a hierarchy of eating disorders?
A: So often individuals who struggle with eating disorders compare themselves to others who struggle and often are left feeling as though their pain isn’t as significant or important as others. There is a belief both with sufferers and the general population that eating disorders are hierarchical with typical anorexia at the top and binge eating at the bottom. This is incredibly destructive for many reasons the primary one being that it causes people to suffer for longer than they should because they minimize their own pain. Below are 3 more reasons why believing this is so destructive:
- It interferes with one’s ability to recover. Not only does this send the message that those with anorexia are the most sick, it also tends to tell sufferers and others that there is a hierarchy in terms of who is most worthy of help and treatment.
- It both prevents and delays individuals from seeking help when they need it and causes them to suffer much longer than they have to. This belief can cause individuals to suffer in silence longer as the signs of their eating disorder go unnoticed at best or normalized at worst (both by themselves and by the people in their lives). Getting people who struggle with eating disorders to seek treatment is challenging enough. If the belief is that their disorder isn’t serious because they don’t fit the description for typical anorexia, it makes the process of receiving support and believing they deserve it that much more difficult.
- It simply isn’t true. All eating disorders are mental health disorders that have serious complications and cause a significant amount of pain. The more we try to rank eating disorders in terms of severity the more we minimize each individual’s experience. It perpetuates the isolation individuals experience instead of helping them to realize they are not alone.
Instead of treating or seeing eating disorders as existing within a hierarchy we want to approach all sufferers with the compassion and seriousness they deserve. If you are struggling with an eating disorder, be sure to reach out and seek support. We at the Looking Glass Foundation are here to help, wherever you may be in your recovery journey.
Kaela Scott is a Registered Clinical Counsellor who specializes in Eating Disorders. She runs her own private practice and works with the Looking Glass Foundation in both their summer camp and their Hand In Hand Program. She has been passionate about working with eating disorders since freeing herself from her own struggle and realizing what it is like to be happy and well. When she isn’t working, you can find Kaela either cozying up with a cup of tea and her friends or up in the mountains going for a hike.