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Can Childhood Abuse Lead to an Eating Disorder?

Can Childhood Abuse Lead to an Eating Disorder?

Jillian looked around her room at all the boxes piled in the corner and felt an urge to weep. She wanted to but she wouldn’t. There was no point in crying; that wouldn’t solve anything. Nobody asked her about the divorce. Nobody asked her if she wanted to move to a different state. Nobody asked her anything. She was supposed to shut up and do what she was told; the only person allowed to cry was her mother.

Jillian could still remember how she’d felt when her mother told her the divorce was final and about the move. Jillian had started to cry and then her mother had started to cry and told her not to. It wasn’t fair. Jillian had to leave her school and her friends and she wasn’t to cry about it. Fine, she’d make the best of it. A new school, new friends, a time to reinvent herself. She had all summer to lose weight so she could start high school thin. Then she wouldn’t have to worry about finding friends; friends would find her. She wouldn’t cry or complain; she’d do what she needed to do—whatever it took.

Abused children are often not allowed to respond to trauma or traumatic events in appropriate ways for children. They are expected to act as “little adults.” Sometimes wounded adults call on them to take on the role of comforter or companion. They are expected to disregard their own needs and fulfill the needs of others. In some abused children, this unrealistic expectation and disregard of their feelings produce feelings of anger and rage. If these reactions are also quashed, the anger and rage must find a substitute outlet.

In some abused children, this expression leads to an eating disorder. The child may begin to control body weight as a way to control at least one thing in their life. That control of their body may come in the form of restriction, in anorexia; of bingeing and purging, in bulimia; or in a preoccupation with weight and image, in body dysmorphia. Some abused children seek out the comfort of food and engage in binge eating but without any purging, resulting in more and more weight gain.

Are you consistently thinking about how you look? What you eat? Do you experience a sense of satisfaction when you reach certain weight goals? Have you disregarded the concern of others over your eating patterns or your weight? Do you feel you deserve to be thin? Do you feel you deserve to be fat? Is food the one com- fort, the one sure thing in your life? Food is a mood modifier and can be used—either by undereating or overindulgence—as a way to cope with psychological stress.

If you or a loved one is struggling with past abuse, The Center • A Place of HOPE is here to help.  Our team is skilled at navigating these sensitive issues, and bringing healing to the whole family. For more information, fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with a specialist today.

Make Vibrant Health Your Goal

Make Vibrant Health Your Goal

The physical side effects of a dysfunctional relationship with food are not unlike the environmental complications that have arisen from pollution in our world today.  You may have trouble imagining your body as polluted, so do the following exercise using graphic pictures that depict the damage pollution is causing to the earth.

  • Collect some magazines and make a collage of beautiful pictures of the earth; sky scenes, landscapes, seascapes.  If you can’t find appropriate images, draw a picture in your journal of a beautiful world.  This world represents the way God intended your body to be.
  • After that, find pictures of the ravages of pollution.  On the next page in your journal, draw or paste pictures of how pollution has harmed the world.  These images represent how your eating behaviors have polluted your body.  Be aware of your physical reactions to these different pictures.  Does the beautiful scenery make you feel calm and peaceful?  Does the polluted world give you feelings of sadness?
  • At the bottom of each picture, write a brief description of how you feel about what you’re looking at.  Just as the awareness of pollution’s dangers has caused people to repair the damage done to our earth, so also your own awareness of the real toll you are placing on your body can give you added motivation for discovering the source behind the pollution of your eating behaviors and putting an end to them.  Looking at the picture of the world (my body) as  God intended it makes me feel….  Looking at the picture of the world (my body) as it has been polluted makes me feel…  Fill in those blanks and reflect on your feelings.

All your life you’ve heard the expression, “It’s never too late.”  You need to believe that now.  Yes, there has been damage done to your body, but that damage can be dealt with and, in most cases, reversed.

In the past, you have spent a good deal of time focusing on how your body looks from the outside.  Now it’s time to look at your body from the inside.  What is happening to you on the inside affects how you look on the outside.  Your relationship with food has not brought you to the point of vibrant health.  Instead, it is robbing you of your well-being, little by little.

Before, you were concerned only with the end result, attaining some sort of desired result.  Now you need to be concerned with the means you are using to that end and the damage it is causing.  To be thin is not necessarily to be healthy.  To put on weight is not necessarily to be fat.  Vibrant health is what you are striving for physically.  Proper nutrition can aid your body in regaining the health of its systems.

Learn more about how nutrition can have an impact on your mental health.

If you or a loved one show signs of having an eating disorder, you may benefit from consulting an eating disorder specialist. Our team of eating disorder professionals at The Center • A Place of HOPE focus on whole-person recovery, and take special care to understand the many aspects in a person’s life that may be contributing to their eating disorder. Fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to get more information or to speak with an eating disorder specialist today.

Are You Living in the Yellow Zone of Depression?

Are You Living in the Yellow Zone of Depression?

Everyone feels lousy sometimes.  Everyone experiences days when they just don’t want to get out of bed, when they’d rather just roll over, pull the covers up over their head, and call in sick to their life.

Depression is more than an occasional I-don’t-want-to-get-out-of-bed day.  Depression is a condition marked by three characteristics: frequency, severity, and duration.

To help figure out if you are depressed, you need to ask yourself the following questions:

  1.    How often does this happen? (frequency)
  2.    How bad is it when it happens? (severity)
  3.    How long does it last when it happens? (duration)

The more it happens, the worse it is, and the longer it lasts, the more likely you are not just having a bad day—you are dealing with depression.

But what exactly is depression, especially when everyone has bad days, and people come in all sorts of emotional shapes and sizes? Depression is an overall category of specific feelings and behaviors.  However, if you are depressed, that depression may look very different from your cousin’s or aunt’s or the person’s down the street.  Trying to compare the way you feel, and matching it up with how someone else feels, may not help define whether or not you are depressed.

Instead of comparing one person to another, try comparing the way you feel with the following two lists.  The first I call my Yellow List, which describes symptoms that signal caution, and a need to be monitored.

As you look over the following Yellow List, a word of caution is needed.  Some Yellows can be tricky to identify, because they may have been present in your life for a long time.  You may be so used to these Yellows they have become normal for you.  A Yellow is not normal if it follows the three characteristics of depression symptoms: frequency, severity, and duration.

Here are items in the Yellow List:

  •    A loss of enjoyment in established activities
  •    Feeling restless, tired, or unmotivated at work
  •    An increase in irritability or impatience
  •    Feeling either wound up or weighed down
  •    Feeling overburdened with life and its activities
  •    A lack of spiritual peace of well-being
  •    A constant anxiety or vague fear about the future
  •    A fear of expressing strong emotions
  •    Finding relief by controlling aspects of your personal behavior, including what you eat or drink
  •    Feeling unappreciated by others
  •    Feeling a sense of martyrdom, as if you are constantly asked to do the work of others
  •    Exercising a pattern of impulsive thinking of rash judgments
  •    Apathetic when you wake up in the morning about how the day will turn out
  •    A sense of enjoyment at seeing the discomfort of others
  •    Anger at God for how you feel
  •    A recurrent pattern of headaches, muscle aches, and/or body pains
  •    Feeling left out of life
  •    Feeling trapped during your day by what you have to do
  •    Experiencing recurring gastrointestinal difficulties
  •    Feeling like your best days are behind you and the future doesn’t hold much promise
  •    Displaying a pattern of pessimistic of critical comments and/or behaviors
  •    Bingeing on high-calorie foods to feel better
  •    Feeling social isolation and distancing from family or friends
  •    Feeling that it’s easier to just do things yourself instead of wanting to work with others
  •    Feeling old, discarded, or without value
  •    Feeling trapped inside your body
  •    Dreading the thought of family get-togethers or social gatherings
  •    Feeling overweight, unattractive, or unlovable
  •    Sexual difficulties or a loss of interest in sexual activities
  •    Unmotivated to try new activities, contemplate new ideas, or enter into new relationships

Living in the Yellow means diminished joy and fulfillment, yet some people seem to live in that zone for a long time, finding ways to cope until the accumulated weight of despair or a sudden, traumatic life event propels them into a deep depression.

You can survive in the Yellows for quite a while, but that’s not really living.  This may seem like bad news, but it’s actually good news.  You weren’t meant to live a life of mere survival, and you don’t need to.

If you or a loved one is struggling with depression, The Center • A Place of HOPE can help.  The Center was recently voted one of the Top Ten Facilities in the United States for the Treatment of Depression.  Break free and achieve peace.  Call The Center at 1-888-771-5166, or fill out this form to connect with a specialist.

Signs That You Are Stressed

Signs That You Are Stressed

The symptoms of stress can show up in unexpected ways.  Consider the following questions and whether you’re experiencing any of the following signs of a stress-filled life:

What is your current resting heart rate?

Stress leaves you energized and may cause you to have difficulty relaxing, so your heart may have difficulty returning to a low resting rate.

What is your resting blood pressure?

The more stressed you are, the harder your cardiovascular system works.  This can create a situation where your blood pressure spikes and then takes longer than normal to fall back down to within normal range.

Do you find yourself hyperventilating?

Deep breathing in the face of physical exertion is useful, as it allows for increased oxygen to be used by the body.  Hyperventilation, or overbreathing, however, creates a situation where the body releases too much carbon dioxide, resulting in dizziness, tingling, headache, and general weakness.

Has your dentist mentioned that you grind your teeth at night?

Teeth grinding is a known symptom of stress, as clenching of the jaw muscles causes the teeth to work against each other, even during sleep.

Do you find yourself breaking out in pimples, acne, or skin rashes?

Stress produces toxins in the body that can be excreted through the largest organ you have—your skin.

Are you always quick to catch whatever cold or flu seems to be going around?

Stress puts a tremendous strain on your immune system, which can result in lower resistance to illnesses and infections.

Is your interest in or ability to have sex flagging?

Stress can suck all the sexual energy out of a room, leaving you tired, unmotivated, and uninterested.  Stress can also lead to painful periods in women and episodes of impotence in men.

Are you gaining weight, or have you lost interest in food?  

Food is a common way people cope with stress—either by self-medicating through food or losing their appetites.  Large shifts in weight—either up or down—can indicate the presence of stress.

Are you eating normally and easily digesting what you eat?

In response to stress, some people may eat too much, too little, or the wrong types of foods.  In addition, the physical effects of stress can interfere with the process of digestion and elimination.

Do you find yourself ranting or venting your feelings of anger?

An emotional rant or venting may make you feel more relaxed, more relieved, because stress can be painful, and people in pain may react strongly in anger.  Anger is a powerful physical and psychological response that can bleed off some of the effects of stress.

As a busy professional, husband, and father, I feel the effects of stress in my own life.  As a therapist, I often see the effects of stress in the lives of those I work with on a regular basis.  For some people, these stress effects are so familiar, they seem normal.

In order to stress less, there are six steps you can take that, when integrated together, provide a pathway to successful long-term recovery.  These steps can be found in my new mini-book that discusses the importance of finding recovery from a stress-filled world.

Remember that God has promised to be with us through times of tension and stress.  When stressed, we are meant to say, like Paul, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” – 2 Corinthians 4:8-9

If you or a loved one is struggling with severe stress, The Center • A Place of HOPE can help.  Call The Center at 1-888-771-5166, or fill out this form to connect with a specialist.

Overcoming Denial and Facing Your Eating Disorder

Overcoming Denial and Facing Your Eating Disorder

Successful recovery from an eating disorder requires you to spend an enormous amount of time thinking about who you are. Keep in mind that really looking at yourself honestly is not self-absorption; it is introspection. Self-absorption leads to a false reality; introspection leads to insight. Insight leads to truth.

We all have times in our lives when we need to concentrate on ourselves in order to survive. This is definitely one of those times for you. Your eating disorder has brought you to a point where you’re seeing that this introspection is really addressing your survival.

Pride—both your own and that of those who hurt you—will work against your recovery. Faulty pride cannot coexist with perceived imperfection; it’s impossible to be prideful when you recognize your own flaws and weaknesses so clearly. You’re beginning to understand that your eating disorder was not the “perfect” solution it promised to be. You’re starting to remember that yours wasn’t the “perfect” family after all. You’re now seeing that your pursuit of being “perfect” yourself isn’t bringing you any sense of peace.

It’s okay to admit that you’ve made mistakes. To do so is simply to recognize your humanity. And it’s perfectly fine to recognize the mistakes of others; you’re simply seeing them for who they really are. It’s okay to understand the way others’ mistakes have affected you; you’re simply accepting reality.

Accepting reality means facing the pain and discomfort in order to process it and place it in its proper context. Within that context, your pain will cease to wield such unhealthy power over you. The truth will weaken the hold your self-destructive behaviors have over you. Truth is not something to fear; rather, it is something to be embraced. The truth will not diminish you, no matter how much your false reality says it will. The truth will complete you, giving you needed understanding of yourself and others. The truth will enable you to operate from a new reference point of strength so you can deal with future hurts, pain, and frustration.

False realities do not dissipate quickly. They are stubborn and hold on for dear life. But you must let them go. If you don’t, you won’t be able to change from wanting to die to wanting to live. You must let go of pride. Coming out of the darkness of a false reality of pride is not an overnight trip. It will require determination, perseverance, and faith. It will require an acceptance of your own weakness and an admission of your own need for God to strengthen you.

For many people, it also requires outside, professional support. Our team at The Center • A Place of HOPE is skilled at guiding people through a whole-person, individualized recovery program, designed specifically for you and your needs. We are standing by to help you face your eating disorder and to heal. Fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with an eating disorder specialist today.

 

Acceptance Versus Denial

Acceptance Versus Denial

Verbal and/or emotional abuse leaves no visible scars, so the tendency to deny that these events happened can be great. Often the parent will remember the circumstances from a very different perspective than the child. The child-self recalls one version of events, and the parent another. Which is right? They may both be.

When we were children, we remembered things from the perspective of a child, often unaware of the larger picture. Our parents may never have considered how their actions looked from our child-side. We need to take this into consideration when examining the past. We will need to accept the other’s version of what happened, and they must accept ours. Finding the truth, and working with our families to resolve issues, can be difficult. But it can be extremely illuminating and rewarding. It can mean the reconciliation of relationships. Or we might gain an understanding of the type of relationship we can realistically have as an adult with our families.. Much will depend upon the hurtful behavior that can be discussed and resolved, and the willingness of others to accept our pain.

Egregious physical or sexual abuse, by its very nature, may lead to outright denial by the abuser. The more valid the memory, the more vehement the denial can be. Because societal and religious condemnation of such acts is so great, the person who physically or sexually abuses may never truly admit what he or she has done. The abuser may believe that if the abuse is denied outright, the abused may begin to doubt that it occurred at all. In spite of this, the abused needs to acknowledge that he or she was hurt. Sometimes it really does not matter if memories are totally clear or recalled; the individual still feels the pain.

Another example occurs with eating disorders. It is possible to replace one’s faulty coping mechanism of an eating disorder with healthy life skills, helping withstand the stresses of life. Through counseling, one can learn to understand and accept their childhood and its pain. If a person can weather the storm of finally learning the truth and giving up an ideal image of the “perfect” family, the pain and hurt can become like parts of a puzzle, fitting into place and giving one a greater understanding of why our parents might have done what they did (or continue to do what they do). Once one understands the why, he or she can begin the process of filling the void in their life with healthy choices: with laughter and love, with family and friends, with good things, and with God. Food will stop having a demanding, overbearing presence in their life and mind.

One’s self-destructive behavior does not come about for no reason. Most people who develop a severe eating disorder have had some history of abuse, and if this is you, I encourage you to believe in what your past reveals. You must be determined to examine your past and accept the truth that is revealed. You must take the truth of your past and put it into perspective as an adult.

If you or a loved one is struggling from denial or past abuse, especially if there are signs of having an eating disorder, you may benefit from consulting an eating disorder specialist. Our team of eating disorder professionals at The Center • A Place of HOPE focus on whole-person recovery, and take special care to understand the many aspects in a person’s life that may be contributing to their eating disorder, including the possibility of past abuse. Fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to get more information or to speak with an eating disorder specialist today. Don’t allow denial, your own or others’, to halt your journey to ward healing and recovery.