People get eating disorders for different reasons. I think that’s one of the most difficult concepts for people to understand or to acknowledge.
People do a lot of generalisations and assumptions about the causes of anorexia. I know this because prior to having it myself I was convinced that the only reason someone would have anorexia is because they wanted to lose weight and to be skinny as they were not happy with themselves. Perhaps it’s this very poular and common idea that leads people to view anorexics as selfish and self-centred. In a way thinking that this desire leads to the illness can be labelled as vanity which is not something people would sympathise with. Not many are willing to go deeper to see that the desire of wanting to be skinny on its own could not possibly lead to such extremeties that the disorder is associated with. No. There are many other factors that can lead someone to become anorexic.
For most, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what went wrong or to pick out the factors that lead them in the direction of despair. I do think however, that trying to figure out the problems that caused the illness can help you see things clearer so that the confusion and anxiety you may have about how it all began can be assuaged.(ie you’re not crazy, it was your way of coping with *whatever*) Knowing the casues can also help find a cure for the illness.Tackling the problems which you used your anorexia to cope with, can help you separate yourself from the disorder as you no longer need it. I also strongly believe that understanding the causes of illnesses can prevent relapses. For instance if you find yourself in a similar situation to the one you were in when your disorder started, you will then start recognising and be aware of your behaviour- you know you’re in the danger zone and since you now know how you became so ill before you can avoid repeating those mistakes.
Since I am in recovery myself, I decided I would list all the reasons I think triggered or caused this illness to form in me. Hopefully my list will give you an idea of reasons that you may have about how your illness came about.
- School/Social situations- I found it too difficult and anxiety provoking to eat in certain places or without someone I knew. This meant I would avoid food most of my day.
- Control- you read a lot about this when searching for causes of anorexia. Yes, I needed something to keep me stable as everything around me was changing. I couldn’t control the changes but I could control my eating.
- A sense of achievement- Although it didn’t begin this way, as time went by not eating became a way for myself to determine how strong I was. I battled against my hunger and usually won. As a perfectionist, I was also very concerned with school work and since that wasn’t always going well, I could rely on this to make me feel like I was able to do something right
- Change/Growing up- as I said earlier, this is uncontrollable. I am growing up, my body is changing, I have to move school, I have family problems… I guess I couldn’t bare these changes and not eating felt as if I was slowing time down …and I kind of was in a way(My periods stopped and my parents stopped arguing)
- Distraction- counting calories and obsessing over food meant I didn’t have time to build up my anxieties around school or other things. My mind was completely focused on the food, no other thoughts could fit into my brain.
- Numbness- I didn’t have any energy to be sad or anxious, My body was too busy trying to keep me alive.
- Reflection/Weight- Again, this wasn’t my intention at the start, I didn’t want to be skinny but I have to admit that seeing my weight drop and my bones more and more visible I felt like I was succeeding and it made me feel accomplished. An illusion that being skinny made me happy.
- Self criticism/ hatred- Many girls and boys don’t like their appearances or themselves as a whole. I am one of those girls. Starving myself made me become a different person both mentally and physically. And although this new person isn’t better in any way, I still hold to the idea that I’d rather be me now (sick, moody and bony) than who I was before. I think this one of the main reason it’s so hard to recover. Why would anyone want to go back to being someone whom they ran away from?
- Attention/Cry for help-No, I didn’t want attention in the way that I wanted people to pity and sympathise with me. That’s another thing people get wrong. Seeking attention is not always so you can be the centre of the world. Would you not cry for help if you broke your leg in a middle of a forest where no one can see you? Exactly. Perhaps my anorexia came about so others around me could see I was suffering. It was inside pain manifesting on the outside.
Essentially, tracking everything back to where it all started can help you identify the problems that triggered the illness, the behaviour that ‘helped’ your illness (in the bad way) and the thoughts and feelings you experienced during that period. Knowing all these things means you can recognise them in the future so that you can take a step back and revaluate your situation and change it so you prevent anything happening all over again.