This blog is going to be a continuation of last weeks discussion on anxiety. I know that this will seem like it doesn’t necessarily have much to do with eating disorders but hopefully by understanding your anxiety, a major contributor to your eating disorder, you will be better able to decrease the ways in which you hurt yourself by restricting, bingeing or purging. Last week we discussed how anxiety shows up in your body. This week we are going to discuss how our emotions are linked to our anxiety. There is going to be a few topics below, like attachment, that I am not going to dive into simply for pithiness sake but would highly recommend that you look it up if you want to understand more.
Children come into the world biologically programmed to attach in order to ensure their survival. In other words, they come wanting to form bonds with their caregivers so they can ensure that their needs will be met. That relationship comes above all else and so, as a child, you learn what you can do to ensure that that bond remains intact. And this is where the topic of anxiety comes in.
As a child we learn which emotions work in our favor with our primary caregivers and which ones hurt that attachment. All of this is perceived through a child’s mind which means it isn’t always accurate or rational.
For example, I had a client whose mom used to withdraw to her bedroom every time she got angry. When she would approach her to talk, her mom would give her the silent treatment and wouldn’t speak to her. If you think of needing to maintain that relationship at all costs, you would learn pretty quick that your anger isn’t safe and that it’s better to suppress it than express it.
So how does all of this link back to anxiety?
As human beings we don’t get to choose which emotions we have. We will experience them all in varying levels. If we, as children, have learnt that certain emotions aren’t safe for us to experience fully then instead of experiencing the emotion we will get anxious. As the emotion starts to come up for us, our body sends off alarm bells that cause us to disconnect from the emotion and start experiencing anxiety in all the ways listed in the last blog.
So what are you to take from this? Simply that the reason you get anxious is because an emotion is coming up for you and somewhere in your life you learnt that having this emotion threatens your safety and well being. (**remember this doesn’t have to be a traumatic experience like my client’s example listed above, we all learn this in some shape or form through our care givers even if they were the most incredible caregivers out there!)
I feel as though I am leaving this blog without it being tied up neatly but that part is coming in the next blog where we will discuss how our feelings and then our anxiety can cause us to turn towards an eating disorder or disordered eating to cope.
Until then, spend some time reflecting and noticing if there are certain emotions that are harder for you to experience than others.
Looking forward to connecting soon!