Skyler Simpkins ’23
Eating disorders affect approximately one million men and ten million women in the United States. The modern prevalence of these eating disorders has affected society’s perception of the mental disorder. As they are occuring at a greater frequency, society has begun to project the diagnosis on individuals showing any sudden weight change or utilizing a different dietary regimen. Personally, I have experienced what this psychological projection can do to your mental state.
When I was in high school, I experienced an unexpected drop in weight. This made me a social target in an atmosphere of toxic femininity driving southern teenage culture. Students would constantly report me to my teachers. Rumors swirled around the school referring to my mental instability and perceived feelings of inadequacy, and even my family threatened to send me to a psychologist if I did not confront my ‘eating disorder’ soon. (In Arkansas, it is often frowned upon to consult a mental health professional). I was pulled out of class and given a lecture on my intake frequency while many of my classmates could hear the discussion. I was completely confused and lost for words. I knew I was eating, I knew I was not purging, I knew I did not have an eating disorder, but my surrounding peers’ perceptions of me made me question my own mental state. Society rushed to psychologically diagnose me and ridicule me for the psychological inner-torment I must have been suffering.
Even though I knew I did not have an eating problem, I began to visualize what society saw when they looked at me. I was losing weight, I was dropping sizes rapidly but I saw no reason for this phenomenon. I wanted an explanation for my condition, so I began to partially accept the diagnosis given to me by society.
The next summer, when I was rushed to the emergency room, it was discovered that I actually had an auto-immune disorder causing my weight change. This entire time, I neglected the idea of any other problem just to settle society’s pressure on me to confess my sin of having a psychological ailment. The pressure from society made me work on my self-image instead of contemplating the possibility of another cause to my weight loss. If society had not pressured me into conformation with their psychological diagnosis, I could have gotten help from a medical doctor for the condition that ails me today. This made me think of all the other medical emergencies avoidable if society would be less condemning of people to common psychological disorders proliferated by our media.
Unfortunately, eating disorders are not the only psychological disorder that society diagnoses. I have seen many people informally diagnose or refer to someone else as anxious, depressed, bipolar, or sociopathic. As a society, we need to understand the devastating effects uneducated psychological diagnosis has on the one targeted. They will believe what society thinks of them and forgo any other possible solution to the problem they are suffering. This societal psychological diagnosis deters many away from professional doctors or psychologists, as they have it ingrained deep within themselves that society’s discretion is always correct. We all suffer from social conformation as we desire to be accepted, so more often than not we will accept the popular views of society. When mental illness becomes a part of these popular views, we sacrifice our own health and mental well-being for the acceptance of a tyrannical majority. I urge you all to receive adequate information from licensed professionals about your mental and physical well-being because I can assure you that taking society’s word for it will lead to self-devastation.