Misconceptions surrounding eating disorders, as I-Team finds pandemic makes the mental illnesses worse

DAYTON — The pandemic leading to an increase in more, severe eating disorders also exposes misconceptions about groups of people the mental illness impacts, an I-Team investigation revealed.

“Eating disorders affect a broad range of people, broader than I think most people think,” Dr. Meredith Glick Brinegar, a Centerville psychologist who specializes in eating disorders said. “I think most people assume it’s white teenagers.”

>> Part One: I-Team: Psychologist warns pandemic causing more, severe eating disorders

>> Part Two: I-Team: As pandemic increases eating disorders, Oakwood woman’s story inspires recovery

The National Eating Disorders Association reports 20 million women and 10 million men in the U.S. will deal with eating disorders at some point in their lives.

NEDA’s most recent data shows between 1999-2009 there was an 88 percent hospitalization increase for 45 to 65-year-old eating disorder patients.

“Most of my practice is adults,” Dr. Glick Brinegar said, including that she is seeing older women seek help in greater numbers than ever before.

Additionally, though there are similar numbers of white people and people of color with eating disorders, NEDA reports people of color are significantly less likely to get help.

Ashley Robinson who is biracial, knows she does not meet the stereotype for someone with an eating disorder.

She started working with Dr. Glick Brinegar when she was living in Dayton.

At the time, Robinson was 28-years-old, and had been struggling with the issues for half her life.

“I’ve binged, but I’m not obese. I’ve restricted, and I’m not super thin,” Robinson said.

She said her average size made her anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder easier to hide.

Though she was aware she was sick, it took her years to get help.

“It’s really lonely and it’s exhausting to wake up every day and hate yourself, and hate your body, and not understand why you have these feelings and the life that you do,” Robinson said. “It’s just really isolating.”

Robinson knows her two young sons are not immune. NEDA also reports: one out of every three people with an eating disorder is a man.

“I always have this thought in the background of I don’t want to pass anything down to my boys. I don’t want to pass any of the eating issues,” Robinson said.

Dr. Glick Brinegar said eating disorders’ misconceptions can mean there is still not enough mental health and medical community awareness.

“They could present with the same set of symptoms and a doctor may not think to ask follow up questions, or to dig a little bit deeper to actually make the proper diagnosis,” Dr. Glick Brinegar said. “It’s a physical disorder that can have physical complications including death, that we need to take more seriously.”

This is something Robinson understands, as she said she will be in recovery forever.

Molly Koweek

I am excited to move to Ohio for some warmer weather. That might sound odd, but I've spent the last four years in central Wisconsin working for WAOW. I co-anchor News Center 7 Saturday. During the weekdays you can catch my reports on News Center 7 at Noon, 5:00, 5:30, and 6:00.