Is an eating disorder a mental illness?


Emily manages a wonderful Facebook Page called EMuzed. The project connects spiritual and emotional healing to the arts. 

At age thirteen, Emily started to recognize symptoms of mental illness.

Was she depressed or socially anxious? Did she begin to isolate herself from others? Well, a little of each but her main symptom was–she began to enthusiastically exercise. Having your child become obsessed with fitness is not the worst thing a parent can have happen to their thirteen-year old, right? Well, it is when the obsession is not with running a six-minute mile but rather with body type. The result? Emily was a fifty-seven pound 5' 6" walking skeleton. 

Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.
— The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Related Disorders (ANAD)

According to the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) there are three mental illness-related eating disorders: Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder. The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Related Disorders (ANAD) provides these facts: 

  • Up to 30 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder (anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder) in the U.S.
  • Almost 50% of people with eating disorders meet the criteria for depression.
  • Only 1 in 10 men and women with eating disorders receive treatment. Only 35% of people that receive treatment for eating disorders get treatment at a specialized facility for eating disorders.
  • Women are much more likely than men to develop an eating disorder. Only an estimated 5 to 15 percent of people with anorexia or bulimia are male.

An acute danger related to eating  disorders is that many of them manifest among individuals taking part in college level athletics. In fact, a comparison of the psychological profiles of athletes and those with anorexia found these common denominators:

  • Perfectionism.
  • High self-expectations.
  • Competitiveness.
  • Hyperactivity.
  • Repetitive exercise routines.
  • Compulsiveness.
  • High level of drive. 
  • Tendency toward depression.
  • Body image distortion.
  • Pre-occupation with dieting and weight. 

I find it interesting how, as young adults, the triggers for eating disorders are the actual societal impulses that push us toward worshipping success; but in later life, the triggers that lead to more adult mental illnesses, such as depression, bipolar, PTSD etc. are often rooted in the reality that we have not achieved the successes we imagined in our youth. 

That leads us back to Emily Lasinsky.  Emily's video details her journey with the peaceful reasoning of a spiritual healer. A healer whose wisdom seems to be the wisdom of one far older than twenty-six years old. 

“No matter your title, no matter what you do, no matter what you accomplish–all that is good–but it doesn’t matter. Because no matter who you are–your character, your quirks, your personality, everything you are is enough.”
— Emily Lasinsky

Thank you Emily for Telling Your Story. You are a healer and a  powerful advocate for our community.

Mental Health Justice. No stigma, no judgment. Everyone is welcome.