Eating disorders in the gothic community

gothic eating disorders


The media is obsessed with our shape. Dieting extremes are splashed all over the tabloids. Subcultures focus on breaking free of mainstream boundaries in favour of personal freedom. When it comes to weight, are subcultures subject to their own internal pressures?

We know that curves are beautiful, as are all shapes, but are we still under pressure to achieve an ideal image? On an eating disorder site, Lisa Arndt proposed the idea that eating disorders were prevalent in the gothic community (the content has since been removed). Men are pressured to try to achieve the Brian Molko look, and women fare no better.

You can have an eating disorder whoever you are, whatever subculture you’re in. You could argue that gothic fashion may incite some people to lose weight. It’s partly because the brands are more likely to be niche, without the commercial advantages of mainstream brands. They have to consider the cost of producing clothing in a wide range of sizes. In addition, their clothes may be harder for the dedicated goth to find. That floral dress in New Look comes in sizes 6-24 in all their branches but when it’s the last Omen top and it’s a size too small, who doesn’t think about buying it anyway and slimming into it?

Let’s face it skinny jeans, are a sizeist trend. It’s also incredibly tempting to diet if you’re a latex fan and want to squeeze yourself into that latex prettiness. Even the corset comes under scrutiny. Is it our very best friend? Or is it an incentive to try and mould your waist? I refer, of course, specifically to tight-lacing. It’s a discipline which, when taken to extremes, can result in miniscule waists, as small as 16″, with the risk of health issues such as difficulty in breathing, and deformation of the stomach and liver.

A plethora of research has been done on eating disorders in mainstream society and cross-culturally. However, at the time of writing there seems to be little or none available on its impacts within Subcultures such as goth, punk or emo. Previous attempts have been made to link self-harm and violence to the darker subcultures but this is seen as a chicken and egg situation. Did they self-harm because they became goth, or did they already self-harm or have suicidal thoughts and merely identified with the gothic lifestyle? There’sno evidence to suggest any link with gothdom and eating disorders. However, any goth with an eating disorder should never, ever be dismissed as ‘just another melodramatic goth’.

It’s so hard to offer an opinion, much less a fact, with any certainty. But it is worth thinking about. As goths, does our non-conformist attitude help to armour us against developing eating disorders? We are, after all, non-normative, which indicates we should generally be accepting of people’s differences.

Or are we more vulnerable as we strive to be the pallid, skinny crypt keepers secretly trying to be gother-than-thou?

Perhaps the answer is  somewhere in the middle. Just as any goth (or indeed human) is an individual, so is anyone suffering with an eating disorder. Still, it’s food for thought.