Why I don’t use “Anorexic” to describe people with Anorexia Nervosa 2


I understand that most people just use the term “Anorexic” to describe a person with Anorexia out of habit and convenience. I just prefer not to use it myself.

So much so, that I often use the term “eating disorder” just because that can’t be turned into a noun. You can’t call a person “eating disorderic.”

My reasoning, is that it is very hard to separate the sufferer from the disease when naming the sufferer with a word that is derived from the disease.

Anorexia is a disease. It is disease that I have. It is not a disease that I am

 

I am not “Anorexic.”

I am a person who sufferers from a disease called Anorexia Nervosa.

 

Or, most importantly, I am a person first.

 

In the same way that a person with cancer is not “cancer.” but a person who is suffering from a disease called cancer. When you call a person “Anorexic,” you imply that they are defined by Anorexia, and this is not the case. Nobody is defined by a disease, a disease is something that happens to them.

If you call me Anorexic, you imply that I cannot recover from this or ever be anything other than Anorexic.

When you say that I am “a person with Anorexia,” you imply that one day I can be a person without Anorexia, and this allows me to believe that too.

Putting this another way, when you call a person an Anorexic, or an Alcoholic, or a diabetic, you are using their illness to define them. You are implying that their illness is them. You are not allowing yourself or the person to whom you are talking to consider that this person is a person with an illness rather than a person who is an illness. No person is an illness. We are all just people. People like you.

 

What’s the difference?

 

The difference is … the is!

Is is the 3rd person singular present indicative of be. To be.

Is is very different than has, which is the a 3rd person singular present indicative of have. To have.

 

To be = to exist.

 

Is implies that I am Anorexia. Is implies that I cannot be experienced without Anorexia. Is implies that there will never be a time when I am without Anorexia. Is implies that I can’t ever be separated from Anorexia. Is implies that I am Anorexia. 

 

To have = to hold, to possess, to endure, to experience, to undergo.

 

Has implies that Anorexia something that is other than myself. Has implies that Anorexia can be separate from myself. Has implies that there might be a time when I don’t have Anorexia. Has implies something other than self is being experienced.anorexic

 

I hope this goes some way to explain why I take a silent umbrage when I hear the word Anorexic. Like I said before, I understand that the differences here are subtle, but words can be powerful. If you know a person with Anorexia, referring to them as a person with Anorexia rather than “an Anorexic” can subconsciously indicate to them that they are separate from their illness — even if they have lost hope that they ever will be. In doing this you can help a person understand themselves that they are not their disease, and that they can be without Anorexia.

Would love your comments and thoughts on this!

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About Tabitha Farrar

I work as Head of Marketing for a software startup in Boulder. As a recovered Anorexia sufferer, I advocate for proper understanding of eating disorders in my spare time. On that note, I wrote a book about my own journey into eating again called Love Fat.


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2 thoughts on “Why I don’t use “Anorexic” to describe people with Anorexia Nervosa

  • Alena

    Hi, Tabitha!

    Firstly, thank you so much for your blog. Some day i’ll find enough time and power to organize myself and write you long and detailed “Thank you” for all what are you doing with this theme.
    About the post – I totally agree with you. What is more, in russian language (I am moscowite) the word “Anorexic” sounds rude.