Herd thinking

A cautionary tale for all of us about public thinking about a real illness. And yes, I do think that some of the public misconceptions about eating disorders is JUST THIS WRONG. Celebrities can say anything, and anyone can call themselves an expert, and any opinion goes.


  1. Thanks for this, Laura... I have found it deeply distressing the way that anorexia nervosa (AN) has entered the public domain (via the media) - and the resultant public misunderstanding of this illness.

    If you were to ask a large, random sample of the population what causes AN I bet that the majority would say "the media", or "cultural pressure to be thin". I also think that most members of the public would believe that AN is wilful behaviour, while people with other mental disorders, such as major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar affective disorder cannot help their behaviour.

    I also believe that the pop culture explanation for AN has influenced sufferers' personal narratives, and they truly believe that the media caused their illness, when it is more likely that the media merely encouraged an already established mental illness. And so there is much focus on 'prevention' (through changing society) which is an utter waste of time, IMHO.

    And celebrity culture.... *Sigh*. I won't even start on that one...

    What I would like to see, is public (and professional) recognition that EDs are as much a mental illness as the disorders I listed above. I despise the 'fluffy bunny' approach to EDs.
    See: http://extralongtail.wordpress.com/2011/12/29/fluffy-bunnies-and-eating-disorders/

  2. With EDs, like autism, one of our problems is that people LIKE the current misconceptions. We're attracted to narratives with bad guys, conspiracies, victims. We also like the messengers to be attractive and appealing: like movie stars. They can sell us any sort of snake oil and we trust it more. We also like easy, black and white, overnight cures.

  3. Haha, then I don't count myself amongst 'people'! I despise gossip, including gossip magazines and sensationalist stuff. I am drawn to issues in our environment, animal welfare and how things work, not which celebrity has broken up with whoever... And I gladly give 'tragic life stories' (aka 'misery lit') a miss. I don't think I have ever purchased something because it was advertised to me on TV..


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