Anger and Anorexia
Anger has become a regular topic in my life since starting treatment for my eating disorder. Entire group therapy sessions are dedicated to it: How did your parents exhibit anger? What was your experience of their anger? How do you express anger now? Do you allow yourself to feel it at all?
I’ve learned from these groups that many people with eating disorders are like me in that they are reluctant — sometimes downright refuse — to express anger. For the most part, this is a learned behavior. Growing up, I experienced anger in my family as the steam in a pressure cooker: the lid stayed on until it burst through and sprayed boiling liquid everywhere. The message I internalized as a result was: 1) Anger is loud and unpredictable, and 2) Negative emotions should not be exhibited.
But if you have ever attempted to bottle your emotions, then you know that in the long run it doesn’t work. They always find a way to declare themselves, whether as a blast of energy, like the exploding pressure cooker, or disguised as something else — like an eating disorder.
I had been escaping into ED-induced numbness for so long that by the time I started treatment I’d all but stopped feeling entirely. I insisted that I wasn’t angry or depressed — my life would be perfect, I swore, if it weren’t for my compulsive desire to lose weight in unhealthy amounts. But once I began to eat normally and regain the energy that my starving mind and body needed, the emotions emerged. And this time, I couldn’t use my eating disorder to restrain them.
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