The secretive nature of the addiction often makes it hard for family and friends to recognize symptoms, Spigarelli said.
“That, to me, is the biggest tragedy in this whole thing,” he said.
Society has adopted the incorrect assumption that when someone who is normal weight says they’re fat, it is solely a symptom of insecurity, Spigarelli said.
“So when somebody says to their parents or friends or to their significant other ‘You know, I’m feeling kind of fat,’ the general expectation of the public is that they’re looking for some kind of compliment, not that they’re saying they have a symptom of a disease,” he said.
Spigarelli encourages family and friends to speak up if they notice that a loved one may be struggling with an eating disorder.
“I think we learn to not see them, and I think part of that is because we worry that we might be offending somebody,” he said.
The bottom line, Spigarelli said, is “treatment works and people get their lives back.”
What matters most is “how bad the disease is, how long it’s gone on for and what their personal beliefs are as to what the disease does for them in a positive way,” he said.