Overeating or "emotional eating"
Obsessing about food, weight and calorie intake
Guilt and shame around appetite and food consumption
Excessive exercise or use of laxatives and/or diuretics
Purging "normal" amounts of food after meals
Binging and purging
Excessive restriction of food
Distortion of body image
Do you restrict eating to
control unwanted emotions?
Is food a prime comfort for you
when feeling mad or sad?
Are you a secret binge-and-purger?
Food and eating -- or not eating -- can be complex forces in our lives. More than a basic necessity for physical survival, in modern civilization eating has powerful social and emotional components as well as the potential to be a mechanism for uses and abuses of control and power.
Sometimes, unhealthy ways of engaging with food are signs of an eating disorder, such as:
• Anorexia – severe restriction of food resulting
• Bulimia – binge overeating followed by self-induced vomiting
• Compulsive Overeating – chronic use of food to numb emotions
Eating disorders can develop as a way to cope with deep psychological pain in individuals who have experienced or witnessed emotional abuse.
Research shows that in some cases, children who are exposed to domestic violence or other dysfunctional family dynamics may be more prone to having an eating disorder.
Feeling helpless or worthless, with low self-esteem and little or no control over what happens to them, may lead children and adults to turn to using food, or not eating, as a way to exert some order amid their emotional chaos.
Other emotionally traumatic experiences can also trigger the development of an eating disorder in some individuals. Research suggests that those who experience identity confusion, or who are bullied / teased / shamed about their weight or sexual body parts may also be likely to develop an eating disorder as a way to cope.
These factors, combined with societal influences that emphasize the unrealistic appearance of women and men, create symptoms that can develop into anorexia and bulimia. Individuals who are already vulnerable to overt criticism about self-worth, weight and body image due to traumatic experiences in childhood feel extreme pressure to measure up – a situation that many times makes an eating disorder worse.
Eating disorders, regardless of type, are serious psycho-medical problems that can lead to dental decay, malnutrition, diabetes, heart damage, and worse – including death. Reversing an eating disorder is possible and in most cases requires the help of trained and experienced professionals.
Healing from an eating disorder takes time and expert help. If your relationship with food, or your habits of eating, are becoming problematic, I’d like to help.
Abigail Blackburn, PsyD
at 617 . 686 . 2420