Imagine that you aren’t feeling well, so you go to the doctor. The doctor performs some tests and comes in the room to discuss the results with you. “I’m afraid I have some bad news,” she says. “You have leukemia.” Your heart sinks. A million thoughts cross your mind and you wonder, “What should I do? Am I going to die?” You drop everything else in your life and seek the life-saving treatment.
Here’s the thing, an eating disorder has roughly the same mortality rate of acute lymphocytic leukemia. So, if you are told that you need eating disorder treatment, what do you do?
Far too often we hear people say things like, “I can’t make it to my appointment this week, I have a soccer game.” Or, “There’s no way I can take a leave from work/school to go to residential treatment.” You can’t play soccer or go to work or school if you’re dead.
Why do we take eating disorders so much less seriously than other illnesses? I believe it is because of ignorance. There is such a lack of understanding among professionals and the general population about what an eating disorder is, the risks associated with it, and the need for treatment.
Eating disorders, even those that are sub-threshold (i.e. don’t meet full diagnostic criteria) or those that are atypical in presentation are dangerous. They can impact every single organ system in the body. The risks of medical complications are very real. If you have an eating disorder you need to be getting treatment from ED-specialized professionals. Download the Academy of Eating Disorders medical guide and read over it. Take it to your doctor and insist that s/he read it too. It may save your life.