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Am I “Sick Enough” for Treatment? 

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Am I “Sick Enough” for Treatment? 

Eating disorders affect hundreds of thousands of people each year and have one of the leading causes of mortality, especially among young women ages 15-24. They are a pervasive disorder that can cause physical and mental health challenges for those who experience them, with anxiety being one of the most common symptoms. 

Because of how impactful eating disorders are, beginning the recovery process can be challenging. As if there isn’t enough stigma around seeking mental health services already from society, gaining the motivation to initiate contacting someone for help can be a daunting task. Pressure from society isn’t the only thing that can make someone hesitant to seek treatment. Your mind can often be the most significant barrier to taking the first step toward recovery, especially when it comes to wondering whether you are “sick enough” for treatment. 

What does being “sick enough” look like? 

If you’ve ever wondered whether you’re “sick enough” to receive treatment for your eating disorder, know you’re not alone. Experiencing doubt about whether your symptoms are “bad enough” for treatment is normal. Because there is a general perception of what an eating disorder is supposed to look like, it can make it challenging to determine exactly what being “sick enough” entails. This is especially true if you don’t match the typical stereotype of a highly underweight teenage girl, which many people think of when they hear the term “eating disorder.” 

Other people can have an impact on how you perceive your eating disorder. People could praise you for losing weight or encourage you to continue losing when you don’t need to. In these cases, it’s tough to notice when the weight loss becomes too much if others contradict what’s going on. 

A big part of not feeling that you are “sick enough” is self-invalidation, where we reject our own emotions. Your consciousness, that little voice in the back of your head, is the one that tells you all of the negative thoughts that consume your mind. Taking it a step further, anosognosia is where a person doesn’t realize the impact of their health issues or lacks insight into it. If you aren’t aware of how much your eating disorder symptoms are impacting your health, you may not feel like you’re ready for treatment either.

However, if you are experiencing any of the common signs of an eating disorder, you should know that it’s essential to seek help. 

What can you do to counteract these thoughts? 

Acknowledging that your eating disorder symptoms are significant enough that you need to seek treatment can be a daunting fact. Seeking treatment also does not mean that there is something inherently wrong with you. It means just the opposite. It takes a lot of courage to recognize when you need help, no matter what type of physical or mental illness you have. 

Trying to validate yourself is one of the best things you can do when you feel invalidated about your eating disorder or feel discouraged about how your symptoms are being perceived. Examples of how to do this are: 

  • Reminding yourself that others shouldn’t dictate your body or how you feel 
  • Your feelings are valid, no matter what they are
  • Telling yourself, “My symptoms are real and having an impact on my life.” 

At the end of the day, there is no definition of what “sick enough” looks like. Eating disorders and the symptoms that come with them vary from person to person. If you feel you are having abnormal thoughts about your body, weight, or eating habits, you should talk to someone about it. What you are experiencing is valid, and no one gets to tell you otherwise.

Chriselda Santos, licensed psychotherapist and certified life coach, understands how difficult it can be to seek treatment for you and your loved ones. If you are interested in learning more about Chriselda’s approach to therapy, or you want to book an appointment, visit her website