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Stigma surrounds mental illness and eating disorders especially. It has control over us, even when we don’t experience negativity from those around us. We are constantly hiding from stigma, constantly afraid someone will find out and see you differently because you had an eating disorder.
Many people see eating disorders as an excess of vanity. The stigma is even worse for men and boys who suffer.
Eating disorders are seen as diseases that afflict dancers, gymnasts, and models.
Eating disorders are seen as feminine–many people aren’t aware men suffer from eating disorders.
This stigma often keeps sufferers from seeking treatment due to fear of judgement.
So how do we remove the power stigma has over us? The first step is to remind yourself there is nothing wrong with you. You aren’t any less of a person. You aren’t broken, you’ve simply had an illness.
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Although easy to comprehend, it is hard to truly believe this. Stigmas surrounding mental illnesses are so deeply felt we begin to believe them ourselves, even though we know the truth about our illnesses. It takes time but telling yourself this every day helps to slowly bring about the confidence that you aren’t broken.
The most powerful way to remove the power stigma has over us is by coming out about what we’ve been through.
When I was suffering from my eating disorder, I didn’t tell anyone. That trend continued years after I had recovered because I was afraid of what others would think of me.
Even though I knew the stigmas around anorexia were not true for me, I still felt afraid of what others would think, say, or do.
I didn’t even tell my closest friends.
In this way, stigmas still held control over me, even though I knew them to be false.
It wasn’t until National Eating Disorders Awareness week of 2012, about two years into my recovery, I decided I wanted to post on social media about my experiences to help people.
I didn’t know it at the time, but being honest about what I’d gone through was the most powerful thing I could do to remove the power stigma had over me.
The more people are open about their experiences, the more informed the public becomes about eating disorders and how not to discriminate.
This, in turn, decreases the stigma surrounding these diseases and helps break down barriers to treatment. It also helps by making those around us aware of eating disorder symptoms, which also helps sufferers get diagnosed more quickly.
When we share our experiences of having an eating disorder, not only do we defeat the power stigma has over us, we also help reduce that stigma for others so that they feel comfortable being open about their own experiences as well.
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