By Jennifer Rollin, MSW, LCSW-C
If you're reading this, it's likely that you've tried a whole bunch of strategies to get rid of unhelpful thoughts and uncomfortable emotions-and they haven't actually worked in the long term.
There are often two commonalities when it comes to folks who are actively struggling with eating disorders and eating disorder thoughts:
1. Often folks actively struggling with eating disorders are very fused to their eating disorder thoughts i.e. they believe them to be true, they take action in alignment with them-they may not even see them as 'thoughts.'
2. Often folks use eating disorder behaviors as subconscious coping strategies-for things like difficult emotions, uncomfortable thoughts, trauma, experiences of oppression, relational and attachment struggles etc. (To be clear eating disorders are NOT choices-they are serious mental illnesses).
Acceptance and commitment therapy, is one of the therapies that myself and some of my team members use to help our clients to recover from eating disorders.
Today, i'm going to talk about an ACT skill called thought defusion.
Defusion is one of many skills we might use for helping clients to change their relationship with their thoughts. It's a way to create distance from thoughts when folks are in recovery (so that clients can work towards taking actions in alignment with their true values).
Examples of defusion skills for eating disorder thoughts:
1. Next time you notice an eating disorder thought try this exercise:
Add the line 'I am having the thought that...'
One step further is to say 'I am noticing that i'm having the thought that.'
This helps to create seperation so you can start to see your thoughts are just thoughts. Not the truth or something that needs to be acted on-if they are unhelpful and not in alignment with your true values.
2. Labeling unhelpful stories that come up frequently.
-You might start to say-ahh this is the 'if I recover from my ED-I won't have any way of coping' story.
3. Create an anaology.
-One that I like to use is 'imagine that your eating disorder thoughts are unhelpful TikTok videos. You can click on them, engage with them, and watch the whole way through. Or acknowledge they are there and swipe past. With enough swiping, eventually the whole allgorhym changes.'
-You can also start to view eating disorder thoughts as similiar to spam emails or texts.
4. Sing it.
-This one won't resonate with everyone, but singing unhelpful thoughts to popular songs or old classics-is another defusion skill.
Ultimately, we can use a variety of tools and strategies to help people to learn how to decide if a thought is helpful or unhelpful in terms of getting them in the direction of the life they want (v.s trying to decide if it's 'true' or 'untrue'), practice defusion skills, connect to their true life values-and practice taking committed actions in the directions of those values.
The Eating Disorder Center is a premier outpatient eating disorder therapy center founded by Jennifer Rollin. We specialize in helping teens and adults struggling with anorexia, binge eating disorder, bulimia, OSFED, and body image issues. We provide eating disorder therapy in Rockville, MD, easily accessible to individuals in Potomac, North Potomac, Bethesda, Olney, Silver Spring, Germantown, and Washington D.C. Additionally, we offer eating disorder therapy virtually in Maryland, Virginia, New York, Washington D.C., Florida, Pennsylvania, and California.
We provide eating disorder recovery coaching via Zoom to people worldwide. Connect with us through our website at www.theeatingdisordercenter.com
The Eating Disorder Center
We are a premier outpatient eating disorder therapy center in Rockville, Maryland.