An individual adopts his personality on the basis of both the genes inherited by him/her as well as the individual’s life experiences. Psychologists have been trying for decades to decipher several aspects of temperament and personality along with particular personality traits in persons with eating disorders. Individuals appear relatively specific to each type of eating disorder, and they can be distinguished from healthy individuals.
Eating disorders are known to be caused by a combination of various factors such as genetic, temperamental as well as external influences. But the most common link between people with eating disorders comprises of difficulties in expressing and coping with emotions.
The connection between emotional avoidance and eating disorders
Emotional avoidance can be described as actions which are intended to inhibit any emotional response from taking a place such as anger, sadness, fear or anxiety. Individuals affected with eating disorders tend to seek refuge in continuous eating or stop eating as an unconscious effort to cope up with the situation and feel better.
For example, a person suffering from anorexia tends to restrict their food intake when they come across feelings of loneliness and sadness. This is because it gives them a false sense of control in the situation. On the other hand, when it comes to a person with bulimia, purging and bingeing offers them a momentary feeling of comfort and relief. People who tend to binge on food tend to run away from reality and use food as a means to distract themselves from the concerns and worries of the real world.
The reality is that eating disorders tend to provide short-term relief or satisfaction from emotional distress while in the long run throwing them into the abyss of emotional misery, depression, and loneliness.
Treating Eating Disorder
Patients suffering from anorexia nervosa have excessive levels of emotional avoidance which can be compared to other psychiatric populations. This finding emphasizes the fact that emotional avoidance is present in abundance in patients with anorexia nervosa and it also testifies to the fact that to some extent such patients willingly avoid aversive emotional states. They are also not competent in correctly identifying emotions and are not able to respond to feeling stemming from emotional distress.
Treating eating disorders incorporates different types of strategies which can aid the sufferers to improve their quality of lives. But it is essential on the part of the doctors to help the patients identify, process and cope with the emotional turmoil in productive ways.
In many cultures, people are taught to suppress their emotions, but it has a long-term impact on the mind of the person. It is, therefore, necessary to share all kinds of emotional upheaval with some confidante. Such behaviours can help them to cope up with emotionally difficult and traumatic times.