Eating disorders are considered to be a “western” disorder seen in realms that do not predominantly have food shortages. In penurious areas throughout the world, especially in my country, mental illness as a whole is either disregarded or relatively undisclosed to the population at large.
It’s hard to recognize eating disorders in a third world country where medical services are so scarce that they can’t even keep pace with the most pressing conditions. Plus, there’s the fact that most girls are naturally born petite.
Have you ever felt so hungry that your stomach starts to make noises? Have you ever sat in front of a piece of food, not wanting to tell anyone you can’t eat it — not because it doesn’t taste good, but because the voices inside your head say you can’t?
Have you ever felt like eating, but forced yourself not to, because you wouldn’t like the reflection you’d see after taking in those calories? Have you ever been terrified of weighing yourself and seeing the numbers increase?
When you finish the day without eating any calories, you can’t wait to see the number on the scale decrease. But in my country, where you live with your parents, you have to let them see that you’re actually eating. That’s why you have to double your effort in hiding your disorder.
People will still notice the changes in your body, though. They’ll start to comment on how thin-as-rake you’ve become. They’ll tell you to eat more and you’ll instantly put up a happy mask and nod.
Because studying is everything in my country, they’ll think that it was the main cause of your weight loss. Sometimes, people will tell you how prepossessing you look and will even applaud you for having such self-discipline in maintaining your body.
You can’t tell your friends and you can’t even admit to yourself that you have an eating disorder, because please, how selfish could you be when half of your population is starving?
How can you seek help for an eating disorder when people in your country barely know what that actually is?
Now, imagine being in a famine-torn place and needing to seek help because you have been bingeing and purging. Can you imagine that shame when everyone else around you was battling hunger and literally killing in order to get some food in their mouth to fill the ravenously hungry feeling? How do you ask help for that?
It makes you feel even worse for having such a disorder in a country where people won’t even let a single piece of rice fall on the ground. The guilt will eat you up.
You’ll feel bad about how much food you waste by purging in a country where there are children in the streets begging for food to eat and wishing they had the food that you have. So instead of seeking help, you shut other people out and you let the disorder consume you.
So yes, eating disorders do exist in a 3rd world countries. They just aren’t as familiar and not addressed the way they are in the 1st world countries.
But hopefully, one day, that recognition and help will reach this side of the world.