By Jennifer Rollin, MSW, LCSW-C
Last night, the fire alarm went off in my building. My husband Mark and I begrudgingly went outside where we learned (as we'd suspected) that some kids had pulled it and everything was totally fine.
The fire alarm goes off in our building all of the time and rarely has there ever been any actual danger.
If you live with an eating disorder, anxiety, and/or OCD, you might have a faulty over-active alarm system too.
Breaking It Down
Here's the thing, the anxious part of your brain is doing exactly what it's been designed to do. Back in the stone age, your brain would send alarm signals telling you to 'fight or flight' and these helped us to survive and not get attacked by a bear!
However, if you live with an eating disorder, OCD, and/or anxiety, this beautifully engineered protective mechanism is now totally getting in your way and causing you to feel trapped.
Your brain is sending you those same 'escape, danger, now!!' signals frequently, around things that aren't actually dangerous. Just like the fire alarm going off in my building all of the time when the building is safe.
They may feel incredibly scary and anxiety provoking AND we have to remember that feelings and thoughts are not facts.
The power lies in working on how you respond to those unhelpful thoughts.
And unlike the fire alarm in my building-you do not need to respond to these false fire alarm signals by engaging in behaviors that are attempts to try to reduce that anxiety: i.e. eating disorder behaviors, compulsions in OCD, or general safety behaviors in an anxiety disorder.
Every time you engage in an eating disorder, OCD, or other kind of compulsive behavior-you send the message to your brain that 'the threat' or feared outcome is real. This strengthens the illness and can make your life really small and consumed with anxious thoughts and compulsive behaviors.
I know it's not easy to start to challenge these compulsive behaviors. However, eating disorders and OCD are very treatable and professional help is recommended.
But what if the feared outcome could actually happen?
I can hear the anxiety pushback now, so i'm going to address it.
Here's the thing. This may be uncomfortable to think about but the only certainty in life (aside from death and taxes) is uncertainty.
No amount of safety behaviors can 'prevent' the feared circumstance from happening. So even if your brain is telling you that 'my feared outcome may happen'-remember that the idea of 'totally controlling what happens in your life" is an illusion anyway.
Also, how is engaging in all of these safety seeking behaviors getting in the way of you living a life according to your true values?
Part of the work in therapy is strengthening and leaning into your ability to tolerate uncertainty.
Additionally, part of eating disorder specific work is learning the function of the eating disorder behaviors, unpacking and unlearning fat-phobia, connecting to true values, and helping clients to heal their relationship with food & body, as well as any underlying layers.
The Bottom Line
You are not broken, beyond repair, or hopeless-no matter how much you are currently suffering.
Eating disorders and co-morbid mental illnesses are very treatable and recovery is 100 percent possible!
We have immediate openings right now for eating disorder therapy in:
Maryland, Virginia, and New York
And recovery coaching worldwide.
Click this link to schedule a free 15 min consultation.
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 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.