Let me start by saying I know you didn’t mean to be insensitive. Maybe it was just a slip of the tongue, or maybe you didn’t realize the implications of your phrasing.
But when you looked me up and down, scrutinized my small frame and said “You’re looking a little anorexic,” you weren’t just mentioning an innocent observation about my weight; you were associating being skinny with having an eating disorder, losing a little bit of weight to starving yourself.
Anorexia is not a term you can casually substitute for the word “thin.” One is a body type, a characteristic of someone’s figure. The other is a serious, potentially life-threatening disorder that thousands of people struggle with every day.
Having never experienced an eating disorder, I was able to brush off your comment at the time. “She is clearly not aware of my undying love for Chipotle,” I thought to myself. But what you said stuck with me. You made me realize how, as a society, we have become blind to how desensitized we are to eating disorders and mental illness.
Often, people say things like “I am so O.C.D. about cleaning my room” without having ever struggled with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. The term O.C.D. has been trivialized to the point where people use it to describe being particular about something, not actually having the mental disorder that leaves many with debilitating anxiety.
It’s seen again with references to Depression. “I wasn’t able to get free two-day shipping on my Amazon order, I’m so depressed.” No. Depression, with it’s weight and severity, cannot be equated to just average inconveniences.
Diabetes, Depression, Anxiety, OCD, Anorexia, and so many other debilitating illnesses are thrown around with no thought and used in substitution of average adjectives. Careless use of these terms can have a lasting impact on how we perceive these disorders.
If I were Anorexic and I were to come forward and be honest with you about my struggle, how would I know that you understand the severity? After all, your casual substitution of the word “thin” with the word “Anorexic” lead me to believe that you don’t know what Anorexia entails.
Instead of using serious illnesses to describe casual observations and feelings, maybe you should think about what you say.