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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.

Owning Up To Your Pessimism

Owning Up To Your Pessimism

If you are a pessimistic person, I want you to be able to proclaim it, to own up to it, and to accept it.  What I have found over my years in practice is that pessimistic people often don’t see themselves that way.  In fact, while they view everything else as being universally negative, they tend to view their pessimism as positive.

Instead of interpreting themselves as pessimistic, they instead see themselves as pragmatic, realistic, more informed and enlightened, and smarter.  For them, a pessimistic response to the world is seen as protective and even superior to the optimist.  Because they approach life believing the worst in circumstances and in people, they feel they are better prepared for whatever life throws at them.  They live a guarded, cautious, defensive life.  Problems, difficulties, inconveniences, and downright disasters are expected.

Pessimists have what I refer to as a critical spirit.  It refers to a person whose inner default mode is to be critical or negative.  Picking on people, jumping on their failures, and criticizing their faults appears to be a positive, proactive position for pessimists.  However, doing so says more about your own faults than the faults of others.

Please don’t misunderstand me.  I have been in the counseling business too long to think that pessimists don’t have very specific reasons for being this way.  I have heard, literally, hours of reasons why a pessimist’s attitude is really a good thing in his or her life.  However, in my experience, I’ve found the reasons to spring from a deep well of pain, injury, abandonment, neglect, humiliation, abuse, and disappointment.  Is it any wonder, then, with this kind of well, that what bubbles up in the life of a pessimist is bitterness and negativity?

A pattern of pessimism can be very difficult to give up because it seems safe.  If you’ve been wounded, it appears smart to venture out cautiously, carefully, defensively.  Pessimism appears to be just the armor you need to engage a hostile world.  It can seem very right to the wounded person, but it leads to death, a death of optimism.  Pessimism becomes not an armor keeping the world out, but a prison keeping you in.  Pessimism is a world that says the worse thing that can happen to you is to be hurt by evil flourishes, where wrongs outweigh rights, where oppression is standard and disappointment is the order of the day.

There’s only one problem with this worldview; it’s a worldview.  It’s a view completely obscured by this world.  It presupposes that all there is or is ever going to be is this world, with all its faults and problems.  This is the type of world described in Ephesians 2:11-12.  It is a view “without hope and God in the world.”

But you do have hope, and God is in the world, so this worldview is a lie.  Since the underlying assumptions of your pessimism are a lie, it’s perfectly logical, rational, pragmatic, enlightened, and savvy to reject it and instead base your response to life on the truth.  And what is truth?  Instead of a worldview, have a God view.  With a God view, your response to life can change from pessimism to optimism.

Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE  and author of 35 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others.

Eating Disorder Recovery: Coming Out of Exile

Eating Disorder Recovery: Coming Out of Exile

It is said that no one is an island, yet through your behaviors you’ve separated yourself from other people.  To control your surroundings, you couldn’t afford to include other people in your life — because people are notoriously unpredictably and often uncontrollable.  Over time, you have walled yourself in.  Now it’s time to start dismantling your wall, brick by brick.

One of the first bricks you need to remove is the one that hides the truth about your relationship with food from those who truly love you.  They need to see what this has been doing to you.  They need to see what this is doing to your physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  They probably already have a pretty good idea of what’s been happening between you relationally, but may not realize how much your eating disorder or your disordered eating is at the core of that impact.  It’s time to let them in.  You need to allow them the opportunity to help you.

If you are a perfectionist, that attitude has fostered a solitary state of mind within you.  Perfectionism demands private effort and rewards accomplishments privately.  Part of you may not want to include others in your recovery to avoid being indebted to them in any way: It’s my challenge, so the victory should be mine.  This attitude only strengthens your perfectionism and false pride — and neither one will assist your recovery.

Those who are deeply concerned about you may want to give you that love and trust as desperately as you need to receive it.  Take the chance.  Open up to someone, but be wise about the choice.  Choose someone who loves you, and then allow that person to show you how much.  Both of you will benefit.

The time to remain trapped in your prison of food is over.  Freedom awaits you.  And included in that freedom is the reality of unpredictability.  You have already decided that you want the future to look different than it does today.  You have already acknowledged that hope is more important than control.

Life is worth a chance.  Love is worth the risk.  God is sufficient.  Believe is your recovery.  Believe in today.  Believe that God loves you.  Believe that your life makes a difference.  Believe there is light at the end of the tunnel.  Believe you are the light for someone else who needs hope.  Believe that the best is yet to be.  Believe in yourself.

Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and author of 35 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others.

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.