Many people come to us looking for therapy for their eating disorders. It’s what we specialize in after all, right? Yes, AND – part of that speciality is knowing that eating disorders rarely show up alone.
Given what we know about eating disorders being used as coping skills (albeit dysfunctional ones), it makes sense that people struggling with them also have a comorbid diagnosis. We often see clients who struggle with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, or PTSD and the eating disorders have become an adaptation in order to survive. Somewhere along the journey, these behaviors don’t work as well anymore, and they end up in our office to start recovering. Usually part of that process is fully feeling and digging through these comorbid issues. Sometimes this includes starting medication, or beginning EMDR, or unpacking learned behaviors and thought patterns that influence core beliefs and interpersonal relationships.
Sometimes our clients know about these issues, telling us in the intake that they restrict when they’re anxious or they started bingeing and purging after a sexual assault. Other times, part of the therapeutic work is like putting together a puzzle, figuring out what the function of the eating disorder was when it started and what needs aren’t being met in the present so that we can find other ways to emotionally regulate and connect outside of disordered behaviors.
If you’re wondering what role your eating disorder plays in your life, ask yourself the following questions:
- How do I feel physically before, during, and after using eating disorder behaviors?
- What situations tend to lead to using behaviors? How do you feel in these situations?
- Have you ever been diagnosed with another mental health issue? Has anyone ever suspected that you’re struggling with something, like anxiety or depression?
- If you can remember what life was like before the eating disorder, how do you think you’ve changed since it started? Was there any precipitating event when behaviors started developing?
- How do you feel if you can’t utilize your eating disorder for whatever reason?