a very nicely written article by victoria counsellor michelle morand, director of the CEDRIC centre, which specializes in eating disorders and related concerns, on the connection between eating disorders and the inability/difficulty to express emotions:
A study was conducted by psychologists about 5 years ago that looked at childhood experiences of trauma, (physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional and verbal abuse, and neglect), and the later development of disordered eating behaviours. What they were looking at was to uncover what the mediating factors were that lead someone with childhood trauma experience to later develop an eating disorder. And what they discovered was that it was a condition called Alexithymia that came hand in hand with depression, and the two supported the development of disordered eating on any level.
Alexithymia is characterized by:
(a) difficulty in identifying and describing feelings in self or other, (b) difficulty in distinguishing between feelings and the bodily sensations associated with emotional arousal, (c) restricted imaginative processes (few positive dreams or fantasies – can have frequent intrusive ideation*), and (d) thinking that is concrete and reality based.
[Hendryx, Haviland, & Shaw, 1991; Taylor, Bagby, Ryan, & Parker, 1990]
In other words, Alexithymia makes it really hard for us to know what we are feeling, or even if we are having a feeling. It makes it difficult for us to tell whether the sensation we think we’re having is physical or emotional. It makes it difficult for us to dream or imagine positive, fun things. And we get stuck in very concrete “logical” thinking, which can make us rigid, most often with ourselves.
The good news is that you can learn to distinguish what you’re feeling, and move through that feeling very quickly. Even better news is that in order to be able to let go of what you’re feeling, you don’t even have to know where the feeling came from.
Since you’ve very likely been distanced from awareness of your feelings since childhood, you may feel some resistance to connecting with them again. You may believe that there will be a great big back log of feelings that will sweep in and overpower you if you were to open the door. That’s just your drill sergeant, (otherwise known as your ego), trying to maintain the status quo. He knows that if you begin to connect with your authentic feelings in the moment, and learn how to effectively release them, you’re going to become more powerful and competent at taking care of yourself than he’s ever been.
Now, again, if you’ve lived your life disconnected from your feelings for the most part, you are very likely wondering what the value of being connected to them would be – in fact your drill sgt. may be saying something like: feelings make you weak; other people won’t respect you if you let your feelings show; I’m just a cry baby if I can’t control my feelings; etc. Check in with yourself for a moment and ask yourself where in the past may you have either heard those very words spoken or witnessed significant people in your life modeling the behaviour of stuffing and discounting or denying their feelings?
The experience of Alexithymia is what leads us to discount and deny our life experience now. Have you ever had the experience of suddenly feeling totally overwhelmed? You are certain you’re overreacting, and in addition to feeling emotional, you’re judging and berating yourself for feeling emotional? You’re certain there is nothing going on in your life to justify you reacting so strongly in that moment. Does that experience sound familiar? I assure you that if you were sitting in my office, recounting a recent experience like that, we would be able to put our finger on the underlying trigger(s) within moments – and it wouldn’t be me spoon feeding or forcing those thoughts on you – you would be able to list for me quite clearly all the things that are going on in your life right now, issues with work, home, relationship with others, food and body image would of course be right up there on the list, issues with money, and others, would all appear from within you, and be highlighted for you to see up on my fabulous white board. At which point you would look at me and say, wow, I guess I do have a lot going on, no wonder why I feel so overwhelmed right now.
for the rest of this interesting article, go here.
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