Have you ever been on a diet? Most of you probably said you have. Why is it that some people develop anorexia or bulimia and others don’t? You might wonder what causes a person to act in such a behavior and what drives them towards self destruction and sometimes even death.

What people don’t understand is that an eating disorder is more than just a fad or a diet, it is a behavior that saturates all parts of the person’s life; physical, emotional, and spiritual. Bingeing, not eating, purging and/or over exercising becomes a way to cope with feelings, emotions and life circumstances.

According to the National Eating Disorders Association, as many as 10 million females and one million males are fighting a life and death battle with anorexia and bulimia. In the United States as many as 10 in one hundred women suffer from an eating disorder. Eating disorders are serious and have the highest death rate of any mental condition.

It’s important to understand that anorexia and bulimia is only the symptom of what is going on internally. Usually the person doesn’t even understand the behavior themselves. When they first engage in the behavior it’s usually a conscious attempt to control their weight, after awhile the person is no longer in control, the mind takes over and the behavior becomes automatic making it even more difficult to stop.

The private world of an anorexic or bulimic is filled with secrets about anger, guilt, power, sexuality, fear of growing up, self-hatred and self-doubt. They might look fine on the outside, but feel powerless and overwhelmed inside and they turn to food and weight to have some sense of control and safety in their lives.

Anorexia is an intense pursuit of thinness.

A person with anorexia starves themselves, becomes dangerously thin and denies themselves the pleasure of eating even though they are hungry. Anorexia affects people of all ages and backgrounds. An estimated one out of every one hundred adolescent girls has the disorder and 10 to 25 percent of people with anorexia die or is allowed to die.

Anorexia begins as a diet to lose weight and/or the pressure to be thin and attractive. Then weight loss becomes a sign of mastery and control. A strong determination to become thinner and thinner takes over and the person significantly restricts their food thus becoming dangerously thin. A person with anorexia has a distorted image of their body, themselves and the world. They think and believe they aren’t good enough, don’t deserve to be alive and feel fat even when emaciated.

Anorexia is about self-hatred for falling short of perfection. It is an unconscious impulse towards suicide, entrenched by their feelings and actions of self hatred.
They stop eating because; “Eating means having food and food means having life. I do not deserve life; therefore I do not deserve food.”

They generally experience out-of-control fear, depression and anxiety and often become irritable and withdrawn. Unusual behaviors may include compulsive rituals, bizarre eating habits, and eating only certain foods at certain times. The process of eating becomes an obsession. Food, calories, weight, and weight management occupy most of the anorexic’s attention and they frequently become angry when someone tries to interfere with their routine.

The person gets locked into a cycle of checking the scale continuously through the day, feeling great success when it shows weight loss and great anger and shame when it shows any gain.

Fear becomes associated with food, even the sight of food causes fear reaction. Food = Fat and Fat = Rejection, so it all becomes enmeshed together. People with anorexia may continually weigh themselves and engage in techniques to control their weight, such as compulsively exercising, vomiting and abuse laxative, enemas and/or diuretics.

Those with anorexia are usually in denial that they could die from it and they continue the destructive behavior even as the body starts to shut down. My friend died weighing 65 pounds at 5 feet 6 inches tall. She was anorexic for about 18 years until her body finally deteriorated and stopped working.

The majority of their time is spent talking and thinking about food and weight and they might develop a sense of self by being labeled “anorexic.” It becomes a banner, a shield and an identity.

Individuals with anorexia often attempt to hide the disorder and frequently are in denial. It is not a choice as some may think they are doing it purposefully, to get back at the family or get attention. This is far from the truth. They are being controlled by the dictates of their negative mind that wants them to suffer. They are more concerned with taking care of others then attending to their own needs.

They want to let go but can’t. “This is too hard, I can’t fight anymore” or “just let me go, let me die.” They don’t ask for help and start feeling inadequate about any decisions or choices they make. They can become intensely suicidal and spiral very quickly. They start to hate every one and every thing and become dominated and enslaved by the thoughts and behaviors of the eating disorder. They want to let it go, but they have nothing to replace it with. They don’t know any other way of being. “Who am I if not my illness?”

There is no definite cause of anorexia; however some experts believe that demands from society and families, and a poor self-image can be contributing factors. Most anorexics fear growing up and use restrictive dieting to prevent their bodies from developing so they can maintain the parent-child relationship. As many as 15 percent of the men and women, boys and girls, who are diagnosed as having anorexia nervosa will die from the disorder this year.

Bulimia is a diet, binge, purge behavior.

A person with bulimia often eats thousands of calories of food in one sitting, feels out of control while eating and is unable to stop until the food is gone. When the food is gone, guilt about eating takes over and they have to get rid of the food by vomiting, exercising, using laxatives, diuretics or enemas.

The act of bingeing and purging is a way of inducing feelings and then purging for a sense of relief. This is called a binge/purge cycle. After awhile the person becomes hooked. The purging process can be so gratifying for the person that they continue to repeat the same “rewarding” experience. As with anorexia, the process of eating becomes an obsession, a way to cope with feelings.

Bulimics may think it’s a great way to eat whatever you want and still stay thin. However, it is habit forming and life-threatening and can get progressively worse without treatment, possibly leading to terrible health problems, even death. After awhile the binge/purge process takes over and controls the person just like any other habit or addiction.

Unlike people with anorexia, you cannot immediately identify the behavior. They often weigh an average weight; however one might see weight fluctuations in a person. People with bulimia often do their behaviors in secrecy attempting to conceal their symptoms, yet feeling ashamed when they binge, and relieved once they purge. They are typically body and weight conscious and are frequently dieting. They often find ways to hide their illness from people because they think others will not understand, and because they are often confused, worried and even ashamed of certain things they do with their own food, hunger and feelings.

What’s Underneath The Symptom
Anorexia and bulimia is only the symptom of what is going on internally. Usually the person doesn’t even understand the behavior themselves. When a person first does the behavior it is usually a conscious attempt to control their weight, after awhile the person is no longer in control, the mind takes over and the behavior becomes automatic making it even more difficult to stop.

The person will look for material that confirms their negative beliefs about themselves. Gradually they become less capable of any normal perspective, have a difficult time making choices and feel any decision they make is wrong. They become masters of the eating disorder and can feel that it is the only thing they can do right.

Eating disorders can take awhile to develop and may become entrenched as time goes on. When a person first loses weight, people around them are usually happy for them, complementing on how good they look. Dieting was a good idea at first because it felt good, then it got out of control. Once it manifests the person heads towards self-destruction becoming imprisoned by negative thoughts and beliefs they hold about themselves and the world.

They are at the mercy of their negative mind that becomes overpowering and threatening saying things like; “Everyone hates you, you can’t do anything right, you’re so selfish, you don’t deserve to have anything good, you can’t eat that, you’re fat, ugly and stupid, no one wants to be seen with you, you don’t deserve to live, if you eat that you better go exercise you fat pig.”

The mind didn’t create this out of no where, it was developed over time. Either the person heard it growing up from a significant person, or they interpreted it from the actions of another, either way it had become engrained in the mind and created a negative mind set. The more negativity that gets piled on, the less worthy the person feels and the further they get from their true self. They believe their negative thoughts are who they are and it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.

Some may think that people with eating disorders are manipulative and selfish, that they are doing it to receive attention or to get back at others. It’s far beyond being selfish or wanting attention, in fact they are highly sensitive and more concerned with meeting other people’s needs than their own. They don’t feel worthy and will deprive themselves of any pleasure; especially food. They try to prove their worth to others because they don’t have a sense of self or identity. They find meaning in taking care of others and they become the person they believe the other person wants them to be missing out on their own development.

They have been accused of being uncooperative when they weren’t able to follow advice from doctors or wouldn’t gain or maintain their weight. Some doctors might blame the person because of their own sense of helplessness. The patient takes this on and perceives themselves as incurable and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If this is repeated through many more years of treatment, the negative mind is fed even more resulting in life threatening consequences.

An eating disorder behavior can often be an unconscious regression back to being a little child in an attempt to keep the parent-child relationship going. The person often feels frightened of change, making choices and taking responsibility for themselves. Looking and acting like a child is an unconscious way to stay safe, protected and possibly loved.
They are living a nightmare, internally and externally, sometimes hoping each day will be the last. “I go back and forth with wanting to live and wanting to die because I do not know how to live.”

Often they will suffer for years being controlled by the negative mind, living a miserable life as a hostage. They struggle to exist in the world because they have no personal identity. They often hold on tight to the eating disorder for comfort and safety, and the eating disorder holds on to them controlling their lives. It becomes a love-hate relationship. They feel they can’t live with it and they won’t live without it.
An eating disorder could have started by someone of importance commenting that you should lose some weight. For me my doctor told me to lose a few pounds, that I was a little overweight.
Eating disorders are often developed when a person starts puberty. During this time their body is changing. They look in the mirror and all they see is change. At this point, they may decide, consciously or unconsciously they need a sense of safety. So they take control over the one territory they have to make safe; their body. By focusing on taking control over their body, they can ignore all those confusing changes that take place when one becomes a teenager.

Inside they are consumed with doubt, worry and fear. After a lifetime of people making decisions for them, they now have to make choices about school, work, socializing, sexual pressure, drugs themselves.

Dieting becomes a way to hold back the physical and emotional change. For most, anorexia begins before the person is 25 years old and starts for different reasons with each person. Recovery is a process and is possible.

Harm on the body
Eating disorders can have harmful effects on the body. They may possibly lead to death by starvation, heart failure or suicide. Specific effects on the body can include irregular heartbeat; hair loss; low blood pressure; damage to organs, especially the heart, brain, muscles and kidneys; loss of thyroid function; anemia; swollen joints; brittle bones (osteoporosis) and fatigue. A person with bulimia can also get swollen glands; damage the esophagus; wear down the teeth from the acid in vomit; and have ulcers in the mouth and throat.

I struggled with anorexia for 23 years and I weighed 80 pounds. I was in 20 treatment centers and hospitals looking and begging for someone to take this debilitating way of thinking and living away from me. Today I’m alive, healthy and happy. There is a way out. It takes patience, love and support.

What helped was taking small steps towards loving myself and using hypnosis to reprogram the negative thoughts and beliefs that were dictating my life. By doing this I started to slowly move in a direction of health and wholeness.

During a hypnosis session the conscious mind is put to rest, allowing suggestions to enter easily into the subconscious, reprogramming automatic responses, making change to happen easily and naturally.

Eating disorders are serious, and if you or someone you know is suffering, it’s important to get help right away. Here are three things you can do right now:

• Help build their confidence and self esteem by pointing out the things they do well and the things you admire in them.
• Be a good listener.
• Find a Hypnotherapist to help them change their negative thoughts, feelings, beliefs and behaviors.

Author's Bio: 

Debra Mittler is the author of Free yourself from Anorexia and Bulimia now available at HypnosisIsFreedom.com. Along with her personal journey of insight and revelation are easy to use step-by-step processes that promote wellness.

Debra works one-on-one and in groups as a Hypnotherapist and life coach in Los Angeles, California. She is also available for speaking engagements.