Image via iStock
In some ways, I think many people never mature beyond their stereotyping days in high school. Cheerleader? Airhead. Artist? Druggie. Diagnosed bipolar, currently in treatment? Crazy, dangerous, run!
Stigmas attached to mental illnesses often lead to discrimination and inadequate insurance coverage. Even worse? Those affected frequently won’t seek treatment because they fear being associated with the disease.
As an anorectic (the term for those suffering from anorexia), I’ve confronted many stigmas that, for far too long, prevented me from admitting my problem. To be fair, anorexia stigmas are not as offensive as some (example: Many think that schizophrenics are dangerous and crazy, but this is not necessarily true), but the effect can be deadly. Anorectics have the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses, so my own hesitation to admit I was anorexic could have caused my death. Literally.
Here are some of the most damaging stigmas I came across – and why they’re very wrong.
1. We’re Stupid
When I typed “anorectics are” into Google, the first adjective that popped up was “stupid.” No. Refusing to wear white after Labor Day is stupid. Passionately hating Anne Hathaway is stupid. Suffering from a mental illness? Not stupid.
Why this is wrong: In actuality, anorectics are more intelligent (generally) than those who aren’t anorexic. Take that, perpetuators of unfair stigmas! When tested, anorectics scored a whopping 10.8 units above the average score of non-disordered folks in the National Adult Reading Test. Not only that, but those who overcome anorexia score even higher than current sufferers on intelligence tests. Studies also reveal that kids with high intelligence and a good memory are at higher risk for developing anorexia later (if they haven’t developed it already – we’ll get to that later).
Why this is damaging: I take pride in intelligence, as do many others who suffer from anorexia. When I hear “anorectics are dumb,” I don’t want to associate with the mental illness. This ties in to yet another false stigma, that . . .