understanding eating disorders – which needs does your eating disorder try to fill?

Eating disorders are often a desperate escape from deeper psychological problems. They often try to replace suppressed emotions and needs and thus create a positive feeling for a short time. This is comparable to a drug addiction – someone takes a drug, experiences a pleasant feeling, but this wears off with the effect of the drug, so the drug is taken again,, but over time the body gets used to the drug (habituation), which lead to a increased use of the drug in order to produce a similarly pleasant effect. Does that sound familiar to you? “Two more pounds, then I’ll stop”, “if I only ate xyz calories yesterday, I can eat even less today” – Then I invite your to discover the needs that are behind your eating disorder. Understand eating disorders can be important for your healing journey.

Health is notthe absens of psychological problems and illnesses, but rather that people can deal with and live with it as well as possible.

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Understanding eating disorders - which factors contribute to the development of eating disorders?

Eating disorders do not have that ONE cause. There are always several factors that play into the development and maintenance of eating disorders. Because not everyone who is exposed to a certain event (e.g. separation of parents) automatically develops an eating disorder. Finding out the causes is usually important, however, in order to enable lasting healing. Because “eating normal” is not enough.

  • Biological factors: In the literature there is a consensus about that certain biological factors can contribute to the development of eating disorders. These include genetic factors as well as changes in hormones or transmitter. Age, gender and whether you are overweight or underweight can also play a role.
  • social cultural factors: The tendency to develop an eating disorder can be amplified by the extremely slim ideal of beauty portrayed in social media, magazines, advertising and casting shows. Comments from relatives or peers about weight/food/… can also lead to constant comparison and dissatisfaction with oneself. Exposing ourselves to the perfect (rather perfectly edited) people on social media platforms on a daily basis (often several hours a day) creates a desire to be perfect ourselves.
  • Family factors: This can be very different. As well as neglect, emotional abuse, as well as overprotection and excessive control can contribute to eating disorders. The ability of the parents to deal with conflicts often also plays a significant role, for example when conflicts are generally avoided or are carried out too violently. It is often memorabel for young girls when their mother, as a role model, speaks negatively about her own body or goes on a diet.
  • Individual Factors: Certain personality traits are also associated with eating disorders. For example perfectionism and a high demand on oneself, ambition and need for harmony, neuroticism, dependency and introversion. Furthermore, trauma and bullying favor the development of eating disorders.

"If you feel guilty about eating when you're hungry, it's like your lungs need oxygen. We were literally taught to be ashamed or to have our basic human needs met. Refuse to feel the shame. you can eat "

What are needs?

From a psychological perspective, needs are defined as a state of deprivation or an experience of deprivation that is associated with a desire to ease that deprivation. Needs are therefore wishes to compensate for an actual or subjectively perceived deficiency. A simple example is water: the need to drink something is triggered by a dry mouth. We want to drink so that our mouth no longer feels dry and our water balance is replenished. Needs are also often seen as what drives us to action – so they have a motivating character.

First of all, I would like to invite you to introduce needs as containers. Needs are met when the container is full. But their level can fluctuate over the course of the day or throughout life, whereupon we resort to more or less effective strategies to replenish these needs. So the first thing to do now is to take a look at how full your individual containers of need are and which need more attention.

Get to know the hierarchy of needs

The most well-known model of needs is probably Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. He presented needs in a five-level hierarchical pyramid. The first four levels are deficit needs (physiological, security, social, and individual needs), while the top level (self-actualisation) of the needs pyramid is viewed as growth needs. The needs at the bottom of the hierarchy of needs must be met before higher-order needs can affect behaviour.

hierarchy of needs - understanding eating disorders

And? – how full are your container on each level? You don’t have to be quite as rigorous about the model as Maslow. You may find that your social needs are adequately met, but you yearn for greater health, security, and order.

Journal prompts to get in touch with your needs

Next time, instead of just following your eating disorder thoughts and believing what your eating disorder tells you, stop for a moment and ask yourself:

  • How am I feeling right now? What thoughts are present?
  • What “negative” events have taken place in the last few days? What makes them “negative” events?
    What have I been worrying about lately?
  • What do you wish other people knew about you?
  • Which person would you like to meet up with again? What’s stopping you from reaching out to the person?
  • What have I always wanted to do? But never implemented?
  • How tidy/sorted is my environment currently? When was the last time you showered?
  • When was the last time you left the house and mingled with the crowds?
  • How can I get my needs met without resorting to self-injurious/self-destructive strategies?

We can focus on defense, safety, or fear. On the other hand, there is the option of growth. Choose growth over fear twelve times a day means twelve times a day toward self-actualization

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