Anorexia and Bulimia In Our Culture: Unspoken Questions

There isn't exactly a "name" for this topic so, here, i'll try to spell it out for you. It's a topic that affects me personally and deeply, but also something that is very rarely talked about in the eating disorder community (both on blogs & in treatment or with mental health professionals, and even with friends). Is Anorexia Nervosa a more serious, deadly, scary, real, or traumatic illness than Bulimia Nervosa or ED-NOS?

I'd be interested in what people's gut-reactions are to this question.

I don't mean the well-formulated answers that people think of, I mean the feeling that comes, the spark of thought that enters the brain or heart when this question is posed. (or when it is presented to your face- is there an image that comes to mind when this question is asked?)

I honestly am afraid of asking this question. I'm afraid of starting this conversation. Its one that I've never seen or heard out in the open, and I think it's time that it's brought to the table.

I, personally, as someone who has always had a "primary diagnosis" of bulimia, have always felt as though i need to "justify" to people that it is an actual illness, with physical consequences and harsh emotional ramifications, like anorexia, despite the fact that it often does not leave it's sufferers looking deathly ill. My first-ever example of this was the very day that my mother confronted me about my "vomiting" when she said:

"Well, I'm just glad you're not anorexic, I mean, those girls are really crazy."

At the time, I had wanted to jump out of my skin when I heard this and scream at her and lecture her on all the awful things running through my head, and how much I was tormented by this disease every day and every second, and could she please (f!#@ing) realize that this was serious, but of course I shushed myself and threw up to "swallow" my need to speak up.

I understand completely that part of this whole "complex" I have about bulimia not being considered as "serious" as anorexia has to do with my own eating disordered-mindset, and how I personally always feared that I was "not sick enough" as many sufferers do. I would really like to emphasize however, that this dilemma, I think, reaches beyond that personal "fear" and, I think, is actually a really serious problem that still exists (albeit 'underground') in the eating disorder "sphere".

I honestly am astounded and appalled at the number of top New York City- area Eating disorder 'specialists' (usually with big titles & rather fat pay-checks to show for it) who have, in one way or another, implied to me (or to other patients or professionals) that weight & how someone looks and whether or not they have lost their menses is the most important factor in determining how "ill" someone really is. There was a psychiatrist at the first treatment center I was at who was almost notorious for telling bulimics that they didn't really have a problem, that being bulimic was just what someone did if they "couldn't be anorexic". (This is a man who did his residency at Stanford University Hospital under world-renowned eating disorder researchers).

I'd like to look at the researchers, and ask why there is always much, much more research done on Anorexia than Bulimia? Why when I type either one in on PubMed do I get over 22,000 results for anorexia and a less than 7,000 results for bulimia? Why, when I visit a website that advocates for Maudsley (or Family-based treatment) is there a video on the front page about how to treat Anorexia whereas I have to search for information about treating Bulimia? I say this not to be a nit-picky complainer, but because these subtleties are important. This is how we are taught, in school, to read between the lines and to pick up on the editors' (or writers' or poets' or artists') message, to understand what is really being fed to us and to be conscious, educated consumers of information.

Why do I always find more blogs that are written by women/men recovering from Anorexia (or some {often restricting} form of ED-NOS) than Bulimia?

Is it shame?

Is it more shameful to say "I was bulimic" than to say "I was anorexic" ? Do you want my honest answer?

Honestly, I think it IS slightly more shameful. I hate saying that i was bulimic. It seems like it's the difference between saying: Hello, yes, I used to stick my fingers down my throat all the time and I wasn't even skinny! or Yes, I starved myself, and my sick body looked similar to that of one of the highly paid fashion models who represent a sick & twisted beauty standard that is idealized in a very confused culture.

What would you rather say?

I'd like to clarify a few things, so that I am not hated by all the wonderful people who decided to read this blog.

I am not trying to say that being bulimic is harder than being anorexic, or anything RIDICULOUS like that. I am talking about the way in which culture (and yes, even our insulated culture in the eating disorder world- meaning those who are even EDUCATED & EXPERIENCED in the eating disorder field) tends to still idolize, or idealize, or freak out about Anorexia more often and more strongly than it does Bulimia. This is separate from a persons personal experience of either illness, and is about how they are talked about & treated.

Also, that being said, many (and I mean MANY) of my best friends (from treatment) suffered from Anorexia. I relate to and respect them, their struggles and their strengths, and talk to them about everything & anything under the sun and I love them to pieces. Many of the ED related blogs that I read are written by people who are recovering/recovered from Anorexia. This opinion that I am sharing has nothing (and i mean NOTHING) to do with how I relate to other ED sufferers in the world, it is simply a cultural nuance that disturbs and perplexes me.

I'm not trying to blame anyone. I wanted to bring this up because it affects me personally, and I feel very strongly about it and have never really had a platform on which to speak about it. I want us to move forward in the ED world, and learn how to move past "undercurrent" issues like this, so that there are no latent stigmatizations or unspoken judgements that are not out in the open, so that EATING DISORDERS are the only battle that we have to fight.

Rose also writes for her own blog Girl Spins Madly On

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Rose M
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