When the media gets it wrong at the worst time

I'm deliberately not providing the links here, because the specifics don't matter and this family need not suffer further from this discussion. It is not the fault of this family or the community if it misunderstands this illness: that is common. But what about the thousands of people who read this kind of article and use it to form their ideas about eating disorders?

Student Dies Unexpectedly

"The ... community is mourning the loss of one of its own. 16-year-old (K) died suddenly Sunday, after collapsing near her home following a short run. She was life-flighted to ... where doctors could not revive her. ... said in a statement Monday - (K) died of complications from severe anorexia. Her death comes just two days after she placed 6th at the state track meet in (her sport). The sophomore was a two-time state qualifier in track who also participated in volleyball and cheerleading. Doctors say anorexia is an under-recognized disease that can be treated.

...Two days before she collapsed while running, she had been healthy and competing at the state track meet ...in front of dozens of fans."

For those of us who know a lot about eating disorders we read a great deal between the lines here that the public does not see.

The ability, in fact the insistence, to remain physically active despite enormously compromised organs is a common symptom of this mental illness.

We must do a better job of recognizing the signs of compulsive exercise, stop waiting for people to "look" unhealthy, and compassionately stop eating disorder patients from carrying out their compulsions.

Regardless of her appearance this young woman was not "healthy" two days before - anorexia doesn't happen in two days. Coaches, parents, and sports fans need to do our best to prevent these tragedies by making sure athletic is not confused with health and that mental health be part of the picture of fitness.


  1. I surprised that the author didn't use the qualification "appeared to be" before the word "healthy". I agree with you that she obviously was not healthy despite her appearance.


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