What role does “worry” play in your life? If you have ever suffered from an eating disorder you may have gotten to know this feeling pretty well. Eating disorders such as bulimia, anorexia, and binge eating disorder develop because there is some type of unmet need or wound that has not been healed in our lives. When we begin restricting or overeating or using other types of disordered eating behaviors, this action may be a way to try to meet that need or soothe that wound — whatever it may be. Perhaps there is a need in your soul to feel emotionally safe and secure, an essential part of our development as children that can sometimes be disrupted. As we grow older, we still have this need, and we can try anything to fill it — food, alcohol, substances, sex, gambling, or money.
When these things don’t work to truly fill our inner hunger, we may begin to worry. Worry that our inner hunger will never be truly satiated, worry that we are hurting others in our lives through our self-destructive behaviors, worry that the eating disorder (or other type of addiction) will erase our true voice and cover it up with ugly thoughts and feelings that keep us in the cycle. In truth, eating disorders use worry as a tool to remain in power. When you are worried about upsetting someone or disrupting a family dynamic, these feelings can feel out of our control. Food is a way to try to control something. Worry can creep up when food feels out of control as well. What are people thinking or saying? What harm am I doing to by body? Will I ever have control of food again?
If worry were a person, what would you say to it? Would you sit down and have a conversation about why it is in your life and what purpose it holds? Worry is a close relative to shame, guilt, and anger — feelings that eating disorders can use to continue trying to control your life and your self-esteem. Instead of becoming angry or upset with worry, therefore giving it hidden power, try to get to know it a bit better. Worry is present for a reason, though its purpose may not have a place in your life anymore. Did worry help you get more attention from a parent or a loved one? Did it give you some insight into how you perceive yourself in relation to others?
How can worry help you in your recovery from anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder? Worry, like anxiety, can be healthy in small doses. They can keep us alert and on our feet. Perhaps worry can be like gentle nudge for you in your recovery to remain aware of any triggers, to choose healthy paths, and to be openly communicative with those in your support system. Eating disorder recovery involves befriending all parts of yourself — worry being one of them. So pull up a chair and share space with those feelings that might intimidate you!