Fort Refuge - Abuse Survivors Support Group

Eating Disorders


According to DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), eating disorders (BED, anorexia, bulimia, EDNOS, etc) are a part of anxiety spectrum. Anxiety is common in abuse survivors, trauma does it to people. It might seem strange that this anxiety would manifest itself in ways unrelated to the original trauma. However, it makes sense; when we're harmed by something outside of our control (as is the case with abuse) - we respond by trying to control whatever we can, e.g. our food consumption. It is all too common for people to develop an ED after a rape, after being a victim of domestic violence, or as a result of suffering emotional abuse in childhood. We might feel - if only I were skinnier, if only I looked "better" - he would love me and not beat me up so often. If only I didn't eat so much - mom wouldn't be mad at me over the money she had to spend on my food. Or - I must be a really bad person if they treated me this way, so I deserve to be punished, and I will punish myself by limiting my food intake. Or even - I'm worthless, I do not deserve anything, including food, so I will not eat.

A common misconception regarding Eating Disorders is that it's about food or body. It isn't. True, ED can cause general health consequences (such as starvation), but the source of the problem is psychological, not physical. It is not that your body is too skinny or too fat and you need to "fix" it in order to feel good again. Consider a simple fact: some people have eating disorders with perfectly fine bodies, while others have grossly obese bodies and no signs of an eating disorder whatsoever. Obviously, excess body weight does not cause an eating disorder, and eliminating it does not heal an eating disorder either. ED is a psychological problem that requires a psychological solution.

Maintaining one's health (mental and physical) is technically one's choice. People do get committed when their mental health issues start posing a life-threat, but only you can decide whether you want to address your eating disorder at this time, or not yet. However, the problem with eating disorders isn't only the risk (or damage) to one's health, it's that one spends great amounts of time, energy, nerves, etc on monitoring their eating, exercising, purging, etc. All this energy could be spent in other ways that might be more productive and pleasurable.

How much time do you spend thinking of food? Counting calories? Purging? Exercising? Weighing yourself? Are you happy with this arrangement, or you'd rather redirect some of this attention towards other areas of your life? If you would - do talk to someone about it. It can be your doctor, therapist/counselor, friend, family member, or a complete stranger online (our forums and chat have plenty of members who understand and share your struggle). Talking to others helps, because it provides you with a different perspective, understanding, emotional support, and, possibly, insight. Mental health professionals might also be able to show you better coping skills, teach you helpful tips on changing your behavioral patterns, and help you explore and resolve the deeper underlying issues that might be causing your eating disorder in the first place. Check out the hotlines and websites below - they might link you to someone helpful in your area. You’re bigger than your ED, don’t let it take over your life :)

Hatred is active, and envy passive dislike; there is but one step from envy to hate.
~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
This page was last updated on June 17th, 2016
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