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.
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.
People suffering from an eating disorder often experienced some form of abuse in their lives. Emotional abuse is one such form of abuse that is frequently overlooked. Emotional abuse can either be verbal or nonverbal. Teasing, belittling, sarcasm, and taunting are all forms of verbal emotional abuse. Nonverbal abuse might take the form of expecting more from children than they can reasonably deliver. Conditional love, with its message of “I love you, but…” is also a form of emotional abuse.
Emotional and verbal abuse are easy to deny because the scars are hidden; there are no bruises to heal, no visible wounds to point to. It is harder to say, “Yes, this really happened!” If you have always lived with them, these behaviors might even seem “normal” to you. But for all of their seeming invisibility, they can be very damaging.
It can also be difficult to pinpoint the symptoms of emotional abuse as they happen in a person’s life. They may have grown up with the behavior, believe it to be normal, or worse, believe the abuse to be their fault. Here are thirteen signs a person is being emotionally abusive.
A person is emotionally abusive if they:
- Refuse to consider your opinion then attempt to force their opinion on you without consideration for your point-of-view.
- Always have to be right when there is a disagreement.
- Devalue your feelings with phrases like, “You’re crazy!” or, “How could you think such a thing?”
- Use unrealistic guilt—guilt that is not in line with the situation—to control your behaviors.
- Command instead of ask you to do things.
- Bring up past hurts to harm you.
- Verbalize forgiveness but bring up past issues to prove a point.
- Use threats, physical force, anger, fear, or intimidation to get their way.
- Practice conditional love.
- Display favoritism by comparing siblings.
- Incorporate harsh judgments in their communications, in order to produce feelings of shame.
- Misuse scriptures to get their way.
- Resort to screaming, yelling, and name-calling in any context.
If you or a loved one is struggling from emotional 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 emotional abuse. Fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to get more information or to speak with an eating disorder specialist today.