Author: Tresa Clemmensen M.SC. CCC
As a therapist in the eating disorder field for almost 20 years, I often hear from clients that they do not feel ‘sick enough’. Whether this is they don’t feel sick enough to get help from a residential centre, such as Westwind. Or they don’t feel sick enough to deserve support. Or they don’t feel sick enough to feel like their struggle with the eating disorder is valid. Fusing to the belief that one is not sick enough actually works to maintain the eating disorder. The eating disorder wants to convince you that you are not sick enough because it doesn’t want you to seek the support you very much need; it doesn’t want you to recover.
Often times, clients will say they aren’t sick enough because they are not suffering from any medical complications, or they feel that their weight is not low enough. An eating disorder is a psychological disorder and most clients struggling with an eating disorder will not experience any negative medical complications or have a low weight. But this does not mean that their struggle is not real or valid or severe. An eating disorder is a serious psychological disorder, regardless of whether or not a person is experiencing any physical complications. Seeking support is important and all individuals deserve to have the support they need.
Sometimes the fear of not being sick enough is reinforced by family members or friends or even professionals such as doctors, who do not fully understand what an eating disorder entails and how it interferes and creates havoc in someone’s life. Clients will talk about how they have received unhelpful comments such as “You don’t look like you have an eating disorder,” or “You seem okay to me”. The eating disorder will then use these comments from others to reinforce the belief that they indeed are not sick enough, which is very untrue. It is important to recognize that these comments are made from a lack of knowledge and awareness of the severity and complexity of the psychological disorder and how an eating disorder does not have a look.
If a client requires weight restoration as part of their recovery, another fear is that once they are weight restored others will think that they are okay. Professionals in the field fully understand that weight restoration is only one component of healing from the eating disorder. Whether weight restoration is apart of one’s recovery or is not part of one’s recovery, being at a restored weight does not mean that the struggle is no longer or that they are fully recovered. An eating disorder is a psychological disorder, not a medical disorder and there is much healing to be done long after the body has healed itself. Learning to use your voice and telling others the internal struggles you are experiencing so that your supports in your life have a better understanding of what you are going through. It is important to voice that you are not okay, versus feeling like you need your body to communicate that you are unwell.
If you are struggling with an eating disorder, please reach out for help and know that your struggle is valid. Reaching out to supports who have knowledge and understanding of the disorder can help to assure that your struggle will be understood. An eating disorder is serious and this is not dependent upon one’s medical state. https://nedic.ca/ is a great resource if you are wanting to look into supports across Canada that you can access.