On this page, we shall answer the question “did Eugenia Cooney have anorexia nervosa?” and look at what eating disorders are and their symptoms. We shall use the case of Eugenia to discuss the stigma that comes with being skinny and how social media can trigger people to develop eating disorders. Finally, we will address toxic positivity in people with eating disorders (pro-ana and pro-mia).
Did Eugenia Cooney have anorexia nervosa?
Yes, Eugenia was suffering from Anorexia. Eugenia’s photos went viral, and she became famous years ago because of her extremely thin body structure. Many of her fans were concerned about her weight and physical appearance, but she denied allegations of being anorexic.
In February 2019, she announced on Twitter that she was taking a break to work with her doctor. Her tweet said, “Hi guys! I appreciate the concern. I’m taking a break from social media and voluntarily working on this with my doctor privately. Please respect that.” after five months of being off social media, she resurfaced and continued to make her beauty and clothes vlogs and hardly talked about anything to do with her recovery.
Who is Eugenia Cooney?
She is a 27-year-old YouTube celebrity from Boston, Massachusetts. In her channel, she does beauty and clothes vlogs and once in a while talks about her personal life. She credits homeschooling for helping her discover her YouTube career.
In one of her videos, Eugenia talks about how she was bullied in school and her parents had no choice but to homeschool her. She has garnered a lot of subscribers and followers and this cannot be solely attributed to the content of her vlogs, but also to her body. She has always appeared unnaturally thin and speculations about her having anorexia started.
She was a victim of cyberbullying from people telling her how unattractive she looked and that she should start eating. Cooney, however, seemed to be unfazed by the comments and did not look a little disturbed by the mean comments about her body. Several petitions have been made by viewers and fellow YouTubers to ban her from social media platforms, claiming that she was promoting eating disorders. We shall discuss this after looking at the petitions made against her.
Details of the petition signed by Eugenia Cooney’s fans to remove her from social media
- They argued that she promoted eating disorders
- It described her as ‘incredibly underweight and visibly suffering from an eating disorder.’
- Detailed about the 5150- a 72-hour psychiatric hold done for assessment of Eugenia’s physical and mental state.
- She speaks vaguely about her struggles and doesn’t encourage others to get help
- Detailed the decline of Eugenia’s weight from July 2019 when she weighed 38.8kg at a height of 170cm.
- She does not eat or drink anything in her videos, which can be 6-7 hours long
- Concern over her illness influencing her followers to become skinny
- Claimed that she was unwilling to take accountability for her actions
- To ban her from posting until she gets treatment and shares her experience
Experts, however, said that the petitions were not credible as Eugenia Cooney has not used her platforms to encourage people to become skinny, nor has she confessed that her appearance is caused by eating disorders.
What is anorexia nervosa?
It is a severe eating disorder characterized by abnormal body weight, distorted body image, and unwarranted fear of gaining weight. In order to prevent weight gain, anorexic people try to control their body weight by vomiting food, using laxatives, diet aids, and excessive exercise. Eugenia Cooney was extremely thin and people were concerned about her thin frame.
Common symptoms include;
We will discuss some of the symptoms of anorexia that Eugenia Cooney had and add others for learning purposes. They include:
- Thin appearance
- extremely low body weight
- dry skin
- hair that easily falls off
- preoccupation with food
- skipping meals
- refusing to eat
- denying hunger
- complaints of being overweight
- measuring weight often
- lying about the quantity of food taken.
- Excessive exercising
- Social withdrawal
- Reduced interest in sex
- Swelling of arms and legs
- Dry or yellowish skin
- Low blood pressure
- Irregular heart rhythm
- Abnormal blood count
- Absence of menstruation
- Bluish colouring on finger
- Eroded teeth
Causes include; biological factors such as genes, psychological factors such as temperaments and environmental factors such as societal demands.
It usually begins during the teenage and early adulthood years. It is more common in women than in men.
Anorexia is the most deadly mental illness and that explains why many people were worried for Eugenia Cooney. One study found that people with anorexia are 56 times more likely to commit suicide than people without an eating disorder. (Eating Disorders Coalition, 2016).
Dangers of pro-ana and pro-mia
What are pro-ana and pro-mia?
Pro-anorexia (pro-ana) and pro-bulimia (pro-mia) are online contents that promote and encourage harmful behaviours that can trigger eating disorders. The pro-ana and pro-mia sites believe the behaviours are not symptoms of any illness but are lifestyle choices. The content created on these pages is commonly known as ‘thinspiration’.
The petition done to remove Eugenia Cooney from YouTube was because many people felt that she was becoming bad influence to young people and alleged that she was a pro-ana member.
Thinspiration; these are pictures of thin women, especially celebrities, who are extremely thin and have protruding bones. They encourage also members to post thinspirations to motivate other members. Photos of plump women are also posted, but to elicit disgust and motivate them to cut weight.
Many people believe thinspiration glorifies eating disorders while thinspiration bloggers defend themselves by saying that it promotes healthy weight loss.
Many people believe Eugenia Cooney is a member of the pro-ana community and this makes her a threat to you people who look up to her. Over the years, many social media platforms have put regulations that filter the content that can be released to the public. This includes the promotion of pro-ana and pro-mia.
People have, however, been able to use language and codes that wouldn’t make it obvious that they are promoting pro-ana and pro-mia, i.e. some people use the word ‘beans’ to mean self-harm injuries.Allia LUzong, a writer, believes that in her content, Cooney says she experiences problems that the pro-ana community think is attractive and that her pictures are used on pro-ana sites as ‘thinspiration. She also alleges that in one of her videos, she shows off her butterfly necklace, which is believed to be a sign to be part of the pro-ana club.
It is possible that people with eating disorders turn to these sites as that is where they feel loved, understood and can be themselves.
Dangers of pro-mia and pro-ana content
- It can push people into making unhealthy goals and rules
- Prevents people from seeking help when they are unwell
- Stir up feelings of competitiveness
- It encourages people to willingly continue with behaviour that is harming
- It negatively impacts the eating habits of people with or without eating disorders
- They negatively impact cognition and affect
- The effect of perfectionism makes them constantly think about their bodies and develop low self-esteem
- They encourage self-starvation
- They lead to the worshipping of emaciated bodies
Does treating patients with eating disorders against their will work?
In an interview with YouTuber and therapist Katie Morton, Eugenia Cooney revealed her friends betrayed her by calling a Psychiatric Emergency Team (PET) on her without her knowledge. She said that she had before contemplated seeking help, especially after her mother started crying about it.
A 5150 evaluation was done on her. A 5150 means someone is committed to a facility because the symptoms of their illness pose a danger to themselves and other people. She then says she was restrained by the arms and carried away on a stretcher.
She explains that the place was scary as people were screaming and one person told her that he had just gotten out of the county jail. Others were banging on walls and the beds were rock hard. After her stay, she flew back home and attended an eating disorder treatment plan as directed by her doctor for four weeks. 5 months later, she made a comeback on YouTube.
Many people, however, do not feel like she has recovered and that her treatment was very quick. Her friends also came out to dispute the story about her treatment.
This would not be the first time there are controversies about forced treatment. Most of them refuse treatment for fear of gaining weight and the stigma that comes with hospitalization.
In some countries and states, people with eating disorders are legally required to seek treatment even if they have refused to enter a treatment program. Some experts, however, feel that might be counterproductive. Others say that it is as effective as some patients have seen the importance of treatment later on in the program.
Craig Johnson, PhD, the director of Laureate Clinic and hospital in Tulsa, Okla says that patients with severe anorexia are not able to think clearly and make poor judgements and hence can be admitted involuntarily.
Another eating disorder psychiatrist says that most anorexics dislike treatment as the illness gives them a sense of control and power over their lives. Once an individual is hospitalised, they have no choice but to comply with medication and other treatment options in restoring enough weight to prevent the likelihood of death. Some use forceful feeding where necessary.
We have discussed the story of Eugenia Cooney, and from it, we have looked at anorexia nervosa, symptoms of anorexia, and what pro-mia and pro-ana are. Finally, we have looked at the involuntary treatment of patients with anorexia nervosa and whether it is effective.
Frequently asked questions: Eugenia Cooney disorder
Which personality trait has been associated with eating disorders?
Harm avoidance, reward dependence, high perfectionism, impulsivity, OCD, neuroticism and sensation seeking.
What disorder is most commonly comorbid with eating disorders?
Major Depressive Disorder, anxiety, OCD, PTSD and substance use disorders.
Do models struggle with eating disorders?
Yes, they suffer from pressure from the fashion industry to achieve and maintain a size zero and this makes them develop disordered eating.
What BMI do most models have?
16 which the World Health Organization classifies as severely thin.
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Luzong A. Who Is Eugenia Cooney?: A YouTube Star’s Decade Long Descent Into an Eating Disorder. Retrieved from https://www.alittlebithuman.com/who-is-eugenia-cooney/
Basu A. (July 5, 2021). What We Can Learn from Eugenia Cooney’s Battle with Anorexia? Retrieved from https://nygal.com/eugenia-cooney/
Dodgson L., (January 14, 2020). A YouTuber opened up about her friends forcing her into a psychiatric hospital because of her eating disorder. Retrieved from https://www.insider.com/youtuber-eugenia-cooney-friends-forced-her-into-treatment-anorexia-2020-1
WebMD, Treating Eating Disorder Patients Against Their Will — Does it Work? Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/eating-disorders/news/20001122/treating-eating-disorder-patients-against-their-will—-does-work