Eating Disorders + Self-harm Seminar

Here’s the next installment of the seminar I gave on the weekend.


Eating Disorders and Self Harm

Spiralling Down – How They’re Addictive

•    Addictive – physically and psychologically. What starts as the solution, becomes the problem.

•    Creates a sense of being in control but then becomes very out of control.

•    In ED, sufferers may experience a ‘whirlpool effect’, where as weight is lost the person experiences a physical ‘high’ and thinking and reasoning is effected, meaning that they become more and more obsessed with losing weight, and less able to break the cycle of over-exercising, laxative dependence etc.

•    A person who becomes a habitual self-injurer usually follows a common progression: the first incident may occur by accident, or after seeing or hearing of others who engage in self-injury. Before the event, they have strong feelings which they feel are unacceptable.  These build and without a way of expressing them directly, self-injury provides a feeling of release. This relief is followed by guilt and shame –  they then feel compelled to repeat the pattern

In both ED and SH sufferers may

•    need to go further each time

•    develop complex ‘rules’ or rituals around cutting or around food which become a part of making life ‘safe’.  Often they will suffer Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), where they feel compelled to follow certain patterns of behaviour to prevent something bad happening or to feel safe.

•    experience a physiological and psychological high when they give in to these behaviours – and panic or depression when they resist them.

Cutting off – How They’re Isolating:

•    shame – I felt like this already, but the behaviours that started as a way of helping me feel better are now making me feel even worse.

•     my life is full of secrets – hiding my body with long sleeves or baggy clothes, lying about what is going on and pretending to be ok

•    others can’t understand – my behaviour arouses strong feelings/judgements in others, which makes me turn inwards.  In fact,

•    Other people become more and more a threat to my only coping mechanism.

•    The weirder I feel, the weirder I act…

•    Social interactions are about food and bodies!  We go for a walk or a swim or dancing, we eat meals together – SH and ED means retreat.

Split in two – How They Tear You Apart:

•    Feeling in charge but out of control

•    Feeling more and more distant from your body – your body becomes an enemy

•    But at same time you obsess over it – the anorexic hates food but can’t think of anything else.  The self-harmer mutilates their body but cares for it too.

•    Desperately wanting help but terrified of losing only avenue of self-expression/control/coping

•    Saving me but killing me:

•    Hidden but obvious

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