Anorexia Coping Strategies

Instructor: Emily Cummins
Anorexia is a serious mental illness characterized by self-starvation and compulsive exercise. In this lesson, we'll talk about strategies to cope with the disorder.

Anorexia Nervosa

We've probably all thought to ourselves, ''I should go on a diet'', or ''I'd like to lose five pounds.'' This is normal, and dieting can be a healthy part of many people's lives. But dieting in an extreme way can be dangerous. Anorexia nervosa is a serious mental disorder characterized by a fear of gaining weight or getting fat. Sufferers starve themselves, taking dieting to the extreme. People with anorexia are generally women and have very low body weight. Compulsive exercise is also associated with anorexia. If left untreated, anorexia can cause serious electrolyte imbalances in the body, which affect the heart. It is the mental disorder with the greatest number of fatalities associated with it.

Anorexia requires treatment from a professional. This usually involves therapy and, in serious cases, hospital stays. In this lesson, we'll go over some of the coping mechanisms we can turn to while recovering from an eating disorder.

Coping with Negative Body Image

Catherine was was diagnosed with an eating disorder and is struggling to overcome it. She often starved herself and, when she looked in the mirror, she saw something much different than others saw when they looked at her. Individuals suffering from anorexia have a very negative body image, or perception of their own body. When Catherine looked in the mirror, she saw someone much heavier than she actually was. An important part of Catherine's recovery is changing her negative body image. How could she do this? For one thing, Catherine should put away her scale. People suffering from an eating disorder often weigh themselves compulsively. Catherine should also put away the clothes that fit her when she was too thin. She won't be tempted to try them on and compare her current size to her past size.

Catherine should also try and focus on something good that she likes about her body, hopefully changing negative perceptions that she is fat. Catherine might make a list of her best qualities and recite them to herself daily. She should try and avoid obsessively thinking about her weight. She shouldn't look at pictures of models or actresses and compare herself to them - these images are unrealistic, or what is sometimes called thinspiration, characterized by images of very thin models and actresses to inspire weight loss.

Catherine should also stick to a therapy plan provided by a professional. This will help her stay on track during recovery. It's also important to develop a support system. Catherine shouldn't hide from her emotions, but instead reach out to people she trusts. Catherine should also be aware of her triggers, or the things that might cause her to revert back to unhealthy habits. Stress or family gatherings or issues at work might make someone recovering from an eating disorder feel like starving. When you can identify your triggers, you can get extra support.

Dealing with Eating

For many with an eating disorder, weight gain can be the most difficult part of the recovery process. Remember, if you feel like you are fat, then gaining weight is going to be very difficult. Remind yourself about why you need to gain weight in the first place. Remember that it is necessary to your survival. Catherine should try and reframe her thinking about food to reflect this, rather than thinking of food as an enemy.

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