The Story Behind the Skeletons

Jaclyn Weiner, Reporter

What common individuals know about anorexia and bulimia is a view of the surface of engulfing intense disorders. Anorexia nervosa: an eating disorder primarily affecting adolescent girls and young women, characterized by pathological fear of becoming fat and excessive dieting. Bulimia nervosa: a habitual disturbance in eating behavior mostly affecting young women of normal weight, characterized by frequent episodes of grossly excessive food intake followed by self-induced vomiting to avert weight gain. This is how we define these serious mental, physical, and chemical struggles and disorders. A lack of empathy has the effect of misleading those who look at strugglers of these disorders.

Why would someone become anorexic? These suffers don’t just say to themselves one day, “I’m fat. Hey, I’m going to starve myself.” These teens and adults go through extreme internal struggles, deal with control issues, and become addicted to the released chemicals and trance that affects from extreme starvation. One needs to travel into the mind of an anorexic to empathize with this powerful problem. This disorder is deeper than ignorance toward perfect a body type.

Anorexics starve themselves of food and go through extreme weight loss. Signs and effects of the disorder are the dryness and falling out of nails and hair, anemia, loss of menstrual period, osteoporosis, faltering circulation, extreme coldness, leading to the growth of small hairs called lanugo to warm the body, and failure of major organs. Without treatment, this disorder can potentially lead to death.

Why? Why would someone starve themselves to become sickly thin? One answer is body dismorphia. Most people know of this disorder as looking in the mirror and seeing an elephant when you are truly a toothpick. In all reality, this disorder is more than this and has many levels of severity. Many teenagers have the potential to be diagnosed with minor forms of this disorder. These individuals are obsessed with their appearance and see mild distortions, due to the pressure of their teen years. On a more severe level, anorexics with body dismorphia starve themselves to the level of being bones and skin, still seeing their manipulated image of themselves fat.

In some cases, when aiming for impossible feats for their particular body structure, anorexics mistake their bones for fat and have surgeries to remove teeth and bones, such as ribs, to remove their “impurities.” Another severity of this disorder is ones who see themselves completely morphed. For example, with half their face missing and blurred, body parts stretched unnaturally, or body parts moved. Individuals diagnosed with this severity of body dismorphia view themselves as too ugly to leave the house or be viewed or even live. A tendency for pulling at the skin while looking in the mirror, is common with strugglers of this disorder. This is done to find impurities such as scars, “something must have happened to me to make me look like this, right?” Or to find the blurred/missing parts of their body.

Another result and cause for anorexia is depression. Depression isn’t just an intense sadness, it’s having no emotions, intense emptiness, extreme loneliness, no hope, and living everyday of life feeling no purpose. Depression is like drowning; painful, slow, dragging. Sufferers of depression often become obsessed with perfection. Anorexia becomes a coping mechanism. Something they can strive to become “perfect” with. Anorexia is also a coping mechanism for those with control issues, such as people who dealt with tragedies or difficult situations in their past that were uncontrollable, or are currently dealing with such a situation. These unfortunate individuals resort to starving themselves and developing an eating disorder as a coping mechanism. The only thing that they believe is controllable in their life is food intake, so they release their cooped up demons by controlling their lives in this way, though harming them in the process, commonly saying to themselves, “Hungry is strong. Empty is strong.” Note that none of these coping mechanisms are choices, but made subconsciously for such reasons.

Bulimia is another common eating disorder. Most people only understand the mere surface of this disorder. “Bulimics throw up to prevent themselves from becoming fat and to lose weight.” This is a complete misconception.

Bulimics generally binge, eat excessive amounts of food in a short period of time, and purge, forced vomiting. As stated on,, the short term effects of bulimia are tooth erosion and discoloration, swollen cheeks, dry and brittle hair, dry and cold skin, and hair and teeth loss. In time, bulimia can lead to irregular heartbeat, Gastrointestinal Reflux Disease (GERD), electrolyte imbalance, enlarged salivary glands, stomach ulcers, infertility, and death. Many bulimics tend to be normal, or overweight, because many of the calories ingested during binges start to break down almost immediately after eaten, before they purge.

Sufferers of bulimia have some similar mental aspects and causes as anorexia. Many bulimics have body dismorphia to some degree, the same or similar forms of depression, and/or use their disorder as a coping mechanism. Instead of starving themselves, bulimics binge and purge. When feeling out of control, bulimics stuff themselves with sickly amounts of foods. Then as a way to gain control in their life they purge, forcibly throwing up ingested food, as well as, in their mind, their demons and problems.

It is common that bulimia and anxiety disorders are linked. The word anxiety is thrown around a lot. It can have a debilitating impact on an individual. Anxiety is an overwhelming sensation; it can’t simply be explained in a way that’s perceivable to others. Bulimics suffering from anxiety use purging as a release of pent up anxiousness. A poor coping mechanism, that they feel helps.

Another aspect of bulimia is a feeling of not being good enough. This could be just a general statement, that bulimics feel has proved true within many dramatic experiences, or have even a deeper meaning. Some bulimics feel that something they have done in their life was so terrible they don’t deserve food. Or in other cases, have been treated so poorly in their lifetime, they have come to the conclusion they are so obsolete they do not even deserve the food that touches their lips, so they purge it.

Questions pop up why bulimics and anorexics keep their issues a secret. In many situations they can be helped and sometimes terrible results come of their disorder which has a tremendous effect on those surrounding them. Terrible statements about sufferers of eating disorders who have died, leaving families devastated, are proclaimed, such as, they are “selfish” for not coming forward with their problems. There are many reasons for these questions and accusations that critics are not empathizing with. Most anorexics don’t believe they have an issue. They are simply blind to the fact that their eating habits and emotional struggles are anything out of the ordinary. This is before confronting problems. All struggles are locked in the subconscious, and these individuals are almost in a state of denial. Another reasoning of secrecy is that anorexics don’t want their control mechanism taken away. Becoming “out of control” is a fear that dominates their mind. The latter is also reasoning for the secrecy of bulimics. Bulimics notice their eating patterns are out of the ordinary, but subconsciously are refusing to let go of their “control.” Ironically, those with eating disorders are truly becoming out of control, replacing one issue with another. In their mind, they don’t see this. Next time you think that keeping an eating disorder a secret is “selfish” or “immoral” try to understand what they are going through.

Lastly, the chemical aspects of bulimia and anorexia come into play. When anorexics starve, they feel a constant “high” of released chemicals, which calms them and pushes feeling of anxiety aside. Anorexics become addicted to this sensation and when they do eat and the feeling is lost, they panic. On the other hand, chemicals are released in the bodies of bulimics after purging. It is a feeling of being “high” or calm, also pushing away anxious feelings. Though, the more the bulimic purges, the shorter this period of calmness becomes. After the sensation passes, a sense of guilt, a feeling of being pathetic, and/or a feeling of losing control takes over. The cycle of binging and purging repeats itself, without the realization of the bulimic that this coping mechanism is not beneficial. Eating disorders are potential obsessions and addictions.

After looking at the story behind the skeletons, it’s clear that those with eating disorders are not simply striving to be thin. More sympathy for models, teenagers, adults, etc. who suffer from anorexia and bulimia is a necessity. Step in someone else’s shoes before dubbing them as “selfish,” “ignorant,” “immoral,” etc.