What Is Going On Anorexia

People with Anorexia often report that the illness gives them an identity, a sense of pride, and a feeling that they are unique.  In therapy it is common to hear phrases such as “I don’t know who I would be without my Eating Disorder.” Many people with Anorexia believe they have found a clear way to measure their self-worth, and in some regards they are right.  People with Anorexia have found something that they feel is a source of pride. Anorexia allows them to have control over an aspect within their life. For some people,  the number on the scale shapes their mood for the day.  Clients might say “If I am a higher weight, I am a bad person and if I am a lower weight, I am a good person” Since people with Anorexia tend to be rigid thinkers, they appear to be enticed by having a seemingly clear cut way to measure their self worth. In overcoming Anorexia, re-framing this concept is critical.

People with Anorexia often have had great difficulty with identifying and expressing their own values, thoughts, and beliefs. They especially tend to have great difficulty expressing emotions they view as negative such as jealousy, anger, and sadness. Also, the physical affects of the starvation (becoming smaller/thinner) may be viewed as a metaphor to express that the individual is feeling unworthy of taking up space, feeling a desire to disappear, or that they are feeling unnoticed or invisible to others.  Frequent themes of therapy are exploring the barriers to recovery. When discussing recovery in therapy many clients acknowledge fears such as “If I get better, then everyone will think that everything is OK, and everything is not OK.” Part of our work is to help clients find other ways to show vulnerability.