Eating disorders may have a component that is related to retaining an impression of what they call control. This representation of control may be reflected in a number of areas such as a focus on body size, academics, job duties, pleasing others and food intake. These areas of focus become a known problem when a person exhibits an over emphasis on their important possibly to a point of portraying a possessiveness with them. When looked at closely, what they have defined as control is in actuality a compulsive behavioral response intended to decrease the experience of uncomfortable feelings, thoughts or relational tensions. The control related to the eating disorder is in reality a diversion or distraction from having to contend with addressing something the person perceives as more being more difficult than the eating disorder itself.
As an example, If a person restricts their food intake for a period they often state that they “feel better” than if they were to eat. So they may interpret the behavior of restriction as having a positive impact on their well being. Thus when they do eat, they then experience a sense of losing control and possibly losing the positive experience of gained from restricting.
Therefore, in an effort to regain that element of control, they will resort to dramatic actions such as crash dieting, fasting, purging, or excessive exercise. For some, these behaviors may feel like an easier solution than simply learning to address the emotional or relational issues that prompted the compulsive response to not eat in the first place.
Eating disorders are complex. In general there are many precipitating factors that contribute such as genetics, familial patterns, social-cultural features, temperament, personality, and or trauma: such as physical, sexual or emotional abuse. Any of these issues may lead an individual an increased sensitivity to perceived threats. This often is reflected in a heightened psychological state of worry and nervousness to changes in their environment. To protect themselves, they will withdraw, often becoming verbally defensive. Their trust in others begins to diminish quite rapidly and their actions to control themselves, or their surroundings become excessively rigid.
Letting Go of Fear
When an individual lives with the belief that they must be in constant control of themselves or their surrounding, they begin to become rigidly consumed with fear—the fear of losing a false sense of control. And where the fear great, there is limited ability to trust.
It’s not only about being able to trust other people, but also about missing out on life situations and opportunities that may come along. Living in fear is debilitating. Trying to maintain a sense of rigid control is exhausting. It can make someone cynical, suspicious, and unable to engage a normal life because they are afraid of what might happen to them.
So what are some of the things that individuals with eating disorders fear?
- Fear of rejection
- Fear of failure
- Fear of ridicule
- Fear of being wrong
- Fear of being taken advantage of
These are just a few of the barriers to trust that patients may struggle with in learning to recognize the strength that can lie in learning open themselves up to be vulnerable and to trust. By uncovering the complex underlying fears and issues contributing to an individual’s unhealthy relationship with food, is to disempower the eating disorder.
At The Meadows Ranch, we utilize a variety of therapies such individual, group, family as well as a robust series of experiential like our ropes course and equine therapy to help patients confront fear and gain confidence in a safe and structured environment. Our therapy programs allow patients to safely experience emotions, reveal thoughts, identify obstacles, develop improved self-confidence, and take greater joy in knowing they can learn to manage life and decrease their fear responses. The results of being able to develop favorable skills to help overcome challenges encourages our patients in knowing they are capable of doing what they thought was impossible, and gives them hope to beat their eating disorder.
We Can Help
Individuals who suffer from eating disorders may find it difficult to trust at first, this includes both other people and their feelings and emotions. Once patients see that fears exist because we are afraid of being hurt, and they learn to say, “Thanks but no thanks,” trust may begin to be restored.
For more than 20 years, The Meadows Ranch has effectively and successfully treated women and girls with eating disorders. We define treatment success as:
- Restoration of relationships with family and friends
- Returning to a productive, healthy and meaningful life
- Reduction of eating disorder symptoms and behaviors
- Renewed interest in school or work
For additional information about the treatment of eating disorders, please call to speak to a Counselor at 866-390-5100 and we will contact you with the information you need.