Too many "worst case" scenarios

It is easy to read an article like this, Woman dies after 16-year anorexia battle in 'worst case' that doctors had ever seen  and call it a severe case of anorexia. Really, I don't know, from her death or her weight history, how bad her anorexia was. I only know how very strong this young woman's physical constitution was to survive semi-starvation for so long.

Anorexia doesn't have to cause severe weight loss to kill, and it causes severe disability at perfectly "normal" weight ranges. Eating disorders cannot be measured by weight or appearance: they are mental disorders.

The weight loss isn't the anorexia's fault, in my opinion, it is OURS. Ours for seeing the weight loss as a sign of severity of illness - and the only sign. Ours for having a mental health system that only hospitalizes during crises. Ours for letting patients be in charge of seeking care, following through on care, and knowing when to raise the treatment level. This could have happened anywhere, and it does, every day.

Side note: what is the statistical probability that I've known so many families who report being told that their loved one was the "worst case" the clinician had seen? I hear it pretty regularly - and it scares me. Strikes me that more providers should be referring to professionals who HAVE seen enough serious cases.


  1. Good point. Being in Oz, things are a little easier given we have the Medicare system. Most providers are still charging and aren't covered by Medicare, but it does provide more avenues for exploration.

    I agree that this is a mental health issue. Not so much disordered eating as disordered thinking.

    Strangely, through the unusual avenue of competitive body building, I have found a way to confront my disordered eating and disordered thinking. I am doing more to work on this than I have with years of professional counselling and psychiatrist visits. I suppose I have a trainer who has dealt with top level competitors with massive anorexia issues. So, your last point is spot on.

    I am not sure, therefore, that the usual ports for help are always the most effective. Having a passionate hobby that requires one to forgo an eating/thinking disorder to succeed and get the most of the experience maybe one way for others to explore? Plain ole' navel gazing for me just keeps me tied to myself. Navel gazing through the lens of my hobby removes me from it to see where I am not getting my desired results.

    Thanks for the post Laura.

  2. I agree. A big percentage of those with severe mental disorders have anosognosia and therefore lack the insight to recognize that they have that disorder. This is true of most of those suffering from anorexia. How then, can such a person be responsible for instigating or coordinating his/her own care? How can malnutrition of any severity be ignored by insurers and the health care system? Our "health care system" has so much wrong with it. The health of every human life is not a priority in the US.

  3. I'm having a hard time understanding how someone who was hospitalized for most of her life could have been allowed to continue at such a low weight. It seems criminal to me. And, to publish such a shocking picture is criminal on the part of the publisher. What is the purpose of publishing the picture of such a seriously ill individual? I can't imagine what good comes in publishing this dear woman's picture.

  4. It could indeed, and sadly has many times, happen anywhere. However THIS case happens to have taken place in my own capital city, in a country which has good health care for the majority and in an environment where everyone from the Prime Minister down plays lip service to improving care for people with these horrible illnesses. This is what makes me most angry - we're getting it SO wrong for SO many people. My this dear woman finally rest in peace.

  5. can you edit my comment to say "May this dear....." not "my"

  6. I totally agree! Because it is a mental disorder, using the BMI measurement as a diagnosis of anorexia leaves it far far too late, the disorder is in such an extreme state at that point. It is difficult, but not as difficult as we think, to pick up clues that someone is anorexic in their minds, before their BMI drops too low. It would be great if the attitude towards ED changed and focussed on earlier interventions and the mental aspect rather than waiting for the physical symptoms.


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