Amy Winehouse’s Struggle with Bulimia Nervosa

As well documented as Winehouse’s struggles with alcohol and drug addiction were, the possibility of her untreated eating disorder was rarely mentioned. Her thin frame and swollen face were perpetually mocked in the media, but they were always attributed to drug and alcohol addiction. But the documentary does reveal how Winehouse struggled with disordered eating habits from a young age. The singer’s mother recounts the moment a young Amy tells her about a new “diet” she’s discovered – eating and then vomiting, which allows her to eat without gaining weight. Amy’s mother says she essentially ignored the statement, attributing it to a phase that she would grow out of. Amy’s father also dismisses the mention of her eating disorder when it’s brought to his attention.

The Contributing Factors for Eating Disorders

There is not just one cause of an eating disorder. Multiple factors are involved, including genetics, metabolism, psychological issues such as trauma, personality and coping skills, and mood disorders like anxiety, PTSD, OCD and most commonly, depression. According to the National Eating Disorder Association, “substance abuse can develop before, during, or after treatment for an eating disorder,” and that reliance on drugs and alcohol is “both ineffective and counterproductive in that emotions remain unaddressed, problems go unresolved, and healthy strategies to cope are not developed.”

A person with bulimia nervosa can carry on bingeing and purging for a long time while otherwise maintaining a high level of functionality. The same goes for those with anorexia nervosa, binge eating disorder and purging disorder. An eating disorder can be masked in the way its sufferers are typically able to tend to the demands of relationships and daily life. This makes it easy for friends, family members and peers to overlook the disease, as the footage and interviews in Amy make clear.

The Egosyntonic Nature of Eating Disorders

One of the biggest challenges when treating a patient with an eating disorder is the fact that EDs are egosyntonic, meaning the patient views their eating disorder as being in harmony with the rest of her personality and ego, and many sufferers don’t want to get better. For many ED sufferers, their disorder is misunderstood and their treatment is incomplete; they aren’t addressing the core issues of their disorder and they don’t realize the devastating effects the eating disorder has on their body.

Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder, but many people don’t know that this is the case. Those who suffer from an eating disorder may die from a medical complication like heart or organ failure, caused by the EDs toll on the body. Unfortunately, these types of medical complications are reported instead of the eating disorder that compromised the person’s health, allowing the eating disorder to remain a powerful, yet silent killer.

The Meadows Ranch Can Help

At The Meadows Ranch, we provide individualized treatment for eating disorders and co-occurring conditions affecting adolescent girls and women. We offer an acute level of care as well as inpatient and residential programming in a safe, nurturing, and non-institutional environment. Our multidisciplinary team helps patients uncover and understand the underlying cause of their eating disorder and gain the courage and skills to return home and continue on the path of recovery. Please call us at 866-390-5100 or complete the form on our website to find out if our program is right for you.

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