Millions of people suffer from eating disorders. Whether it's anorexia, bulimia, EDNOS Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified or binge eating disorder, they struggle to eat a balanced diet and maintain a healthy weight. Their food-related behaviors vary from bingeing to starving, from purging to unusual food rituals. To others, their behaviors defy logic, but to them the eating disorder has become a friend, a way to cope, a comfort, a way of life. On the other hand, the eating disorder has become something that disgusts them, fills them with guilt and shame, and controls them. Even if they want to stop, they can't. But why?
What are some of the common causes of eating disorders? We often hear about the pressure in the media to be thin and that is certainly often a factor. However, the causes are deeper than desiring to attain a lower weight or wear a smaller size. Although they can vary greatly, here are some common causes of eating disorders.
1. A series of difficult circumstances of any sort.
2. Grieving, whether it is of loved ones, a job, health or other things.
3. Abuse or trauma of any kind.
4. Low opinion of self.
5. Difficulty identifying and expressing emotions, desire to numb painful emotions.
6. Feeling everything is out of control.
7. Depression and suicidal thoughts.
8. Rejection in any form.
9. Feeling unlovable and lonely.
10. Unhealthy upbringing that could include any of the factors listed above.
How do experiences such as these result in food-related behaviors? Below are some examples of circumstances and various thoughts and feelings having the potential to lend someone to an eating disorder.
"Everything is changing. My parents got divorced. I go to a new school and I'm losing touch with my old friends. My parents have so much to think about now that my sister is pregnant on top of everything else. I don't want to bother anyone. I'll just fade away."
"My coach is on my case again. I thought he was the one person I could please. I get tired of feeling like I'm not good enough for anyone and coming in second all the time. All the other guys seem so confident and have it together, but I'm not like them. I just want to please my coach and fit in."
"Now that my kids have left home, I'm not sure who I am anymore. My husband has changed, too, and it's like we don't know how to live in this house alone. My parents are ill and I'm uncertain how much longer they'll be with us. Things keep happening that are outside of my control."
When people have circumstances such as these and then begin engaging in various food-related behaviors, they don't often realize the connection. They may restrict what they eat because they are starved for love or because they feel their food intake is the one thing in their lives that they can control. Those who binge may feel something is missing in their lives or they find temporary comfort while eating. Purging may feel like an attempt to rid themselves of painful emotions. Focusing on weight and body image may distract eating disorder sufferers from the unexpressed emotions and unresolved issues they carry. There are multitudes of possibilities, but these are a few examples of the connection between emotions and eating disorders.
Can you relate to some of these common causes of eating disorders? Do you find yourself gravitating toward food-related behaviors? If so, I encourage you to seek professional help. With a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment, you can heal from the past, learn new coping skills, and become a healthier person inside and out.
Even if you have experienced some of the common causes of eating disorders and begun to engage in unhealthy food-related behaviors, there is hope for recovery. Also, if you have God at your side, remember that He can help you with any aspect of your eating disorder. Regardless of what has happened, there is a way to cope, to heal, and to live a healthy life free of an eating disorder.
Laurie Glass has a Master of Ministry degree in Christian Counseling and is the author of Journey to Freedom from Eating Disorders. She is a recovered anorexic who offers online Christian counseling services to adult women with eating disorders. See her website at http://freedomfromed.com/.
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