Trigger Warning: Mental Health, Eating Disorders, Self-Harm
Generally, when we think about eating disorders, we picture an emaciated teenage girl, starving herself to look pretty. And it’s Instagram’s fault. Not only is this delusion sexist, deeply insulting, and very harmful, it’s unhelpful.
This illusion doesn’t help us understand why people turn to seemingly strange methods, like controlling food and self-harm. These are often related to natural human impulses, like the desire for things like comfort and control.
In order to help understand why the perception of psychological disorders ignores the needs that drive people, it’s very useful to think about different issues, that don’t correspond to the typical norms. One of these I find really interesting is Pica, and by talking about Pica and why people resort to it, we can potentially resolve issues around the perception of these disorders.
Pica is an eating disorder that was it recognised by the Ancient Greek Hippocrates, long before most psychological disorders, but it’s rather different from other eating disorders.
People with Pica eat non-nutritious substances, like metal and paper, sometimes even dangerous substances like drywall and lead paint. While this condition is often found in people with Autism and other developmental disorders, it has also been linked to issues like emotional trauma, and familial difficulties. In these cases, Pica is most often a form of comfort.
I find it fascinating that this very unusual condition, which most of us would regard as ‘weird’, can be traced back to a universal human impulse. Regarding it in this way normalises the behaviour, and makes it easier to empathise with people who deal with it. Conditions and behaviours like self-harm and other eating disorders are often linked to the desire to control, a similarly universal issue. By recognising how our nature can cause us to develop seemingly strange impulses, we respond to these issues in a much better way.
Humans are, by and large, weird creatures, and our behaviour is also quite weird. However, often our behaviour grows out of our universal needs, our desires for support, comfort, and control. By grasping this, and talking about psychological disorders in these terms, we can break through the negative and damaging social perceptions, and help destigmatise mental illness.
Feature Image: Pixabay @95C
Last modified: 12th September 2020