Purpose and Planning Outside of an Eating Disorder

By Natalie Hutson, M.S., L.P.C.

The eating disorder serves a purpose in a sufferer’s life. For some, the eating disorder may be a defensive retreat from the world, which is viewed as dangerous or untrustworthy. One may feel as though he or she is not allowed to experience being truly loved for oneself. Instead of withstanding expected failures in healthy, intimate relationships, one may feel he or she must be beautiful, perfect, and compliant to be loved. The eating disorder may help one establish a sense of adequacy one cannot achieve in other areas of life because of the faulty belief that one is unable to live up to the real or imaginary expectations of family, friends, or significant others in one’s  life. One may use the magical thinking of the eating disorder to feel safe. Children often use magical thinking to claim anxieties about the unknown, but as the real world offers more safety, they begin to give up the magical world. People with eating disorders; however, sometimes return to this magical thinking of childhood, creating individual rituals and behaviors to give a false sense of security.

Whatever purpose the eating disorder has served in one’s life, it  has been there not by accident, but for a reason.

Achieving recovery from an eating disorder involves understanding and appreciating one’s complexity as a person and relinquishing the need to retreat to obsessive simplification of emotional conflict. It involves developing a trust in oneself and in relationships with others. Most important of all, recovery involves not just a will to recover, but a REASON to recover…a reason to move on and experience life.