The Cyclical Nature of Eating Disorders

October 31, 2013   •  Posted in: 

One of the first steps toward overcoming an eating disorder is understanding its cyclical nature. If you are struggling with anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder, while you may not consciously identify the following progressive components as they are manifesting in your behavior, upon closer examination they should resonate with you, and ring true.

1) Unease or dissatisfaction.

There is something in your life that is just not quite right. In fact, it feels really wrong. It could be sadness, anger, or resentment stemming from a relationship, an event, or a situation. Or it may just be a general sense of negativity, or even boredom, inherent to the general outlook on life you have developed as a result of past experiences, perhaps starting in childhood.

2) Desire to exert control over these negative feelings.

You can only feel bad for so long before resorting to behaviors that will bring some sort of relief. Some people turn to alcohol, drugs, and other addictions to distract their thoughts and suppress their feelings. You have turned to food.

3) Using food to distract and suppress.

If you have anorexic behavior, you feel a sense of control in your ability to resist hunger and abstain from eating. If you have bulimic or disordered binge eating behavior, you control your thoughts and feelings by focusing on food consumption, followed by purging in the case of bulimics.

4) Negative feelings re-emerge.

Whatever respite your disordered eating gives you from negative feelings, it is short-lived. Only now, the negative feelings are compounded by the guilt, shame, self-loathing, and hopelessness associated with your disordered eating.

5) Self-hatred renewed.

It is all too much to bear. You hate your behavior, and yourself, more than ever. It cannot go on like this. Something must done.

6) Repeat the behavior.

Though the previous disordered eating behavior garnered no true or lasting relief from the pain, you are desperate for something, even if it is the briefest of respites. Thus, the behavior rears its ugly head.

Clearly, what starts as an activity intended to exert control actually becomes a behavior that controls you. Fortunately, you need not go it alone. Seek help from a professional counselor. Hope is out there. You just have to find it.

Are you struggling with an eating disorder? Take our eating disorder survey. A Place of Hope has eating disorder treatment and resources that can help.

Dr. Gregory Jantz

Pioneering Whole Person Care over thirty years ago, Dr. Gregory Jantz is an innovator in the treatment of mental health. He is a best-selling author of over 45 books, and a go-to media authority on behavioral health afflictions, appearing on CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, and CNN. Dr. Jantz leads a team of world-class, licensed, and...

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