One of the big misconceptions with eating disorders is that the disorder centers around an unhealthy relationship with food. While this is certainly a part of all eating disorders, the food and eating behaviors are typically symptoms of the problem, but not the true problem itself.
Many people are not aware of the fact that the development of eating disorders is often triggered by the experience of a difficult, unpleasant, and sometimes traumatic event or circumstance that causes the affected individual to shut down emotionally.
This suppression of emotion is not sustainable and feels unmanageable; therefore, those predisposed to developing eating disorders will turn to food as a way to feel more in control or to distract themselves from their emotions.
In Monika Woolsey’s timeless book, Eating Disorders: A Clinical Guide to Counseling and Treatment, she describes perfectly the true motivation behind eating disordered behaviors:
“Eating disorders can be viewed as an alternative language that develops when verbal skills do not provide an emotional outlet. When basic emotions such as anger and fear are not verbalized, they find other avenues of expression. .. Clients often express frustration that family and friends did not recognize their dysfunctional behavior as their way of saying they were angry or hurt” (Woolsey, 103).
Woolsey goes on to describe some common eating disorder behaviors and their true meaning:
“Common eating disordered behaviors include:
The suppression of emotions, in addition to feelings of low self-esteem and low self-worth as well, are the true root cause of many eating disorders. For this reason, it is imperative to address these issues as a key component of treatment. Focusing on changing eating behaviors for the sake of health doesn’t cover the whole issue at hand, and may be more likely to lead to resistance or risk of relapse. The components of a well-rounded treatment team and approach for someone with an eating disorder should include:
Here at Bridging the Gaps, we ensure that we provide this team-based approach when a client comes into our care with a secondary diagnosis of an eating disorder. For clients who are struggling with eating disordered behavior as their primary diagnosis, residential and IOP treatment options are available in the local area, including:
If you have questions about eating disorder treatment options for yourself or a loved one, please feel free to contact our nutritional department at Bridging the Gaps.