Seeing the damage

The wires are full of a study linking eye damage to anorexia and bulimia. I "see" this whole thing differently to many others, it seems.

Eating disorders don't harm the eye: failed treatment does. Failure to keep patients safe from their compulsive behaviors causes damage to all systems, visible and not, permanent and not, diagnosable or not. It is failed treatment to be undernourished or erratically nourished or not digesting one's food.

It is time to stop looking at the malnourishment of anorexia and bulimia as expected and acceptable. We need to see that as failed treatment. Once someone has been diagnosed with an eating disorder we have to stop letting the illness continue the malnourishment that drives it deeper.

The problem with these articles about the eye study is they continue to talk about eating disorders as something a person is 'doing to' him or herself. Talking about the damage these sufferers are 'risking' and thinking that telling people this will help them change. I don't think so.

The hell of having an eating disorder isn't a matter of "oh, wow, I didn't know it could hurt me." We're talking about people who are already hurting. If risks of medical harm were a way to get people to stop behaving in these ways, well, the evidence was already clear.

Those studies are measuring OUR failure to treat, to protect, to understand. At least that's how I see it.


  1. Well seen and said Laura.

  2. Over the years of EDs my vision has become poorer. I have a lot of trouble focussing properly. It's the same with my hearing. I'm already profoundly deaf but it's deteriorated a lot more in just the past few years. Hearing tests don't show as much deterioration as I'm experiencing. I think even if I see and hear things okay, somehow the message isn't getting through to my brain. A lot of what I do hear and see, I cannot make sense of. A lot of the time it's like everyone started talking in another language.
    Yes, you said it perfectly that malnutrition is not something that should just be accepted as a side effect of anorexia. I have lost count of the times medical professionals have just shrugged over some medical problem that I had resulting from it, as though there wasn't a point in even investigating further because it was caused by the anorexia. I have been told to go home and eat a sandwich when presenting to the emergency department with chest pains - I do not go to emergency lightly, I'm terrified of the place. A few days later when someone bothered to take me seriously I had fluid round my heart and other problems that meant I was in grave danger. The emergency doctor had dismissed me as being manipulative and attention seeking because I obviously had a problem where I hurt my own body.
    Just because someone has an eating disorder doesn't mean physical complaints should be ignored til they are 'better'. I had been pleading for years for help with very painful, weak legs and back, they literally felt like they were splintering. It took 3 YEARS to be taken seriously and get scans that showed my osteoporosis was so extreme both femurs and tibias had thinned to the point of fracturing. And the damage is so great that now they can only offer pain relief, and not much of that either.
    The scariest thing for me is being so close to death so many times - not wanting to die, and yet it being so strong, so in power over me, that I could not eat or keep it down to save my own life. To just feel even a little bit less scarily unwell or in pain. It's a monster of a disease.

  3. It simply amazes me that many medical professionals that I've consulted in the last few years have a problem linking my endocrine problems with the damage done to my body when I was active in the ED. So on one hand I think that it's great that they are making the links with long-term medical issues. But on the other hand, I totally agree with you.

    Because really... would I have stopped starving myself if someone had just said to me, "Oh, but honey, think of the damage to your endocrine system when you're in your 30's..." Nope. It's not the immediate issue. Look at effective ways to fix the problem at hand (the malnourishment), and then we can prevent or at least dampen the future problems. Scare tactics don't work!


Post a Comment

Popular Posts