One of the main misconceptions held by sufferers of eating disorders is that they are external entities that are separate the suffer him/herself. Sufferers often refer to ‘ana’ or ‘mia’ as though they are living beings that control the sufferer.
This dissociation allows the sufferer to believe that the disorder has nothing to do with them…that it is something that has possessed them and that it has nothing to do with them as a person.
The reason that this idea is appealing to those suffering from Eds is that it allows the sufferer to feel that the Ed is not his/her ‘fault.’ He or she can claim that the disorder has nothing to do with them as a person and that they cannot be responsible.
What the sufferer needs to realise is that they are never responsible for the fact that they are suffering. Nobody asks to be unhappy or to develop depression or an ed. These are always caused by stressors in the circumstances of the sufferer.
When we are in a situation where we feel out of control, we slowly develop negative and untrue beliefs about ourselves. We feed these beliefs with negative thoughts. These thoughts actually create neural pathways in the brain that in turn produce more and more negative thoughts. This is the state of depression.
For the Ed sufferer, the eating disorder feels like a way of controlling the depression, a way of controlling the circumstances that are so difficult and that cause such pain. Of course, it does nothing to help but that is not how it feels to the sufferer.
In order for the sufferer to gain relief, he or she needs to realise that their own beliefs and thoughts are creating the disorder and that they are the only ones who can control this. Nobody is responsible for the fact that they are suffering, but we are all responsible for altering the thought patterns that are at the root of the disorder.
All sufferers need help with this. It is simply not possible to do it alone. I tried for 20 years to do it by myself, as I was unable to find the help I needed. When I finally had cognitive behavioural therapy, I learned how to change the limiting beliefs and thoughts that were at the root of the problem. This took a lot of hard work and time, but I very quickly saw benefits and began to experience a joy and freedom that had previously been unimaginable to me.
Thinking of eating disorders as separate entities, as evil demons, only helps to keep sufferers in a state of suffering. It perpetuates the feeling of having no control over the disorder. Understanding that it is the disordered thoughts in our own minds that need to be sorted out gives back control to the sufferer.
There is no guilt to be had for anybody suffering from an eating disorder. But it is necessary to understand that it is down to us to undo the damage that caused it in the first place. We are the only ones who can do that.
The only way for recovery to occur is for the sufferer to take into his/her hands the responsibility for changing their own mindset. Whatever type of therapy can help a person to do this will work. For me it was CBT. I can’t speak for other types of therapy as I didn’t try them all and the ones I did try – counselling, psychotherapy and hypnotherapy, did not work. This was because they did not help me to find the tools I needed to adjust my own mindset to a healthy and positive one.