Eating Disorders and Reality TV Part I first response
- Category: Culture and Media
No, people suffering from eating disorders should not be turned into fodder for the entertainment industry. I'm a psychotherapist in Los Angeles specializing in eating disorder recovery for adult women. I get at least two calls a week from producers or their lackeys asking me help them find people with eating disorders for their shows.
They also ask me to talk to my patients and encourage them to be on such shows. Confidentiality, respect for the healing experience, honor to the individual's process goes out the windowin search of ratings based on voyeuristic interests.
If I sound angry, I am. People who strive for eating disorder recovery are courageous, dedicated people committed to doing the deep and personal work necessary to free themselves from their eating disorder and step into a healthy and more fulfilling life. If they want to write about it later, fine. That could be encouraging to others. But to film it while it's in process is like digging up a seed periodically to see how it's doing. The growth experience is distorted or stopped.
I see such shows as going for ratings and turning recovery work into a circus - not giving consideration to the people who are serious about getting well. But most importantly, I see the powerful influence of ignorance leading the way. In my opinion, programming decisions, auditions and the intimate nature of these reality shows show that the people involved do not understand the complex nature of a person's vulnerability and naiveté when gripped by an eating disorder.