Using Anger to Fight Your Eating Disorder

Posted by on Nov 13, 2014

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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  1. Wow! This is a great article. Right now I am trying to learn to deal with other people’s anger. I am terrified of it. I have always swallowed the fear because I never want to rock the boat. It is so hard to speak up and say the right thing. It is so much easier to shut down. I have not dealt with my anger yet. I often do not know how I feel. My therapist is trying to teach me to check in with my body in order to determine if I am anxious, angry or anything. I have to make a conscientious effort to actually know how I am feeling. Are my muscles tense, am I nauseous, these are things I have to ask myself. Then I have to figure out why I feel this way. It is a lot of work, but it is so worth it. I hope some day I will be able to harness my own anger as you have.

    • Hi Robin,

      Thank you so much for your comment. Just based on what you said here, I’m confident that someday soon you definitely will conquer and harness your anger. Recognizing how you react to and express anger is half the battle — so the fact that you are working so hard on that alone is really great. I, too, was really confused the first time that my therapist told me to check in with my body. I literally had no idea what she was talking about. And I still struggle with that. But that’s why we practice! And yes, it is so worth it.

      Keep fighting — you’re doing great 🙂
      <3 Joanna