Eating disorders occur in people who have difficulty managing their emotions and sitting with difficult emotions, both highly painful emotions and the most subtle of negative emotions. Eating disorders, like many addictions, can temporarily suppress negative emotions. This can be a very effective way for someone to manage their pain in the short term, helping them feel they have some control over the discomfort they are experiencing.
From my clinical experience I have come to learn that eating disorders are only seen in people who come from families where there is emotional neglect, meaning their emotions were not responded to well by their parents. Emotional neglect occurs because the parent (or usually both parents in the household) is so delayed in their own emotional development that they can’t manage their own emotions, let alone the emotions of their child. When children experience their emotions being consistently neglected, not responded to, or they are punished or made to feel bad for having emotional needs, they quickly learn to try to shut their emotions off rather than feeling them fully and being able to tolerate them and use emotions to guide them. This attempt at emotional suppression leads to all addictions, including eating disorders. Emotional neglect in the first place leads to borderline personality disorder. An eating disorder is one of many behaviours that people with borderline traits use to try and help them get by.
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