What keeps you from getting help for binge eating disorder – It’s too much to deal with right now
What keeps individuals from seeking treatment beyond shame and guilt for having a disorder and the stigma of living in a larger body? Plain and simple, it’s not being able to face the fear of what recovery would mean to their life. Many say, “it’s too much to deal with right now,” “it’s too scary,” and they put off seeking help.
Think about what keeps people stuck in such a painful disorder like binge eating disorder:
- Self-soothing – for many, food is the sole source of love they are comfortable giving themselves. It’s ever-present, rarely disappoints, and is readily available. To give that up requires a great deal of courage and faith that something as good, if not better, does actually exist.
- Praise, admiration, support and attention from others – for many, the weight loss efforts may be the greatest source of praise they ever received in life. To give up the ghost that weight loss is the answer to feeling loved and appreciated also extremely hard.
- Keeping the family or relationship together – it’s rare that I’ve come across a client with binge eating disorder who wasn’t also a people pleaser who took on the burdens of everyone around them. There is often a lopsided relationship tied to it where all day they are giving to others from a spouse, a boss, children, friends or colleagues and expend every ounce of energy on everyone else but themselves. The only light at the end of the tunnel is food at the end of the day. Recovery means having to put themselves first and that means disrupting the status quo.
- Safeguard against failure – many put their life “on hold” until they reach some kind of weight goal, hoping to feel worthy of the effort to work, start dating, have a family, and even move out on their own. The obsession with weight, and failure to achieve it and relapse to binge eating become it’s own safety blanket to avoid larger fears of failure in life.
- Avoidance of sexuality – for many, a fear of intimacy, often due to a history of abuse and neglect, drives the continuance of the disorder. To recover for many means they have to re-engage in sexual contact and that can be very traumatic. The desire to remain in a larger and non-sexual body can be a powerful driving force to avoid treatment.
- Avoidance of memories or feelings – while living in a larger body may be a way to avoid physical connections to trauma, binge eating itself is a way to numb out and avoid the memories and feelings associated with abuse, neglect, and other negative emotions. When food is no longer used as a tool of dissociation, people report feeling worse and worry about not being able to cope with their moods, thoughts, and feelings. Staying numb may feel safer.
- Maintenance of a sense of control – for those with binge eating disorder, it may have started as a means of personal rebellion. Being told what to eat and what not to eat may be one reason some choose to say, “I’ll eat whatever I want and when I want and how much I want. Forget you!” It may stem from being hyper-controlled in other areas of life as well and eating is the only place they can assert control over their body, much as anorexic patients describe asserting control over their body by not eating. Both are forms of unintended self-abuse that may have started out as acts of personal rebellion.
- Giving one an identity or sense of self – for many, struggling with an eating disorder for enough years has become an identity. “I’m the sick one,” and thus receiving special attention for the disorder feels like the only way they receive any attention at all. Even if it’s negative attention.
To recover means you have to risk facing all these issues. Food is not a drug. Food is a tool that is being used to wage a much deeper war than you may have realized. That’s why treatment is so necessary. You can’t selectively numb out the sad, angry, and anxious emotions. When you numb out and avoid life, you lose all the potential for joy, passion, and excitement that make it worth living.
Yes, you will have to feel worse before you will feel better.
Yes, the process will take a long time.
Yes, you will have to put your needs first and other people will be kind of upset and pissed about it.
But you will be the person you were meant to be in the end. Happy. Healthy emotionally, physical and spiritually.
We all deserve that. You just have to take the first step in the journey and reach out for help.
By Andrew Walen, LCSW-C, LICSW, CEDS - Founder and CEO at The Body Image Therapy Center. If you would like to get in touch with Andrew please call 877-674-2843 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.