Eating Disorders and the Anxiety Monster
Every day, I wake up anxious and afraid to face the day. Each morning, my anxiety is so strong, I sometimes feel as if I am crawling out of my skin. I have dealt with anxiety and depression most of my life, but it has increased tremendously since I developed anorexia nervosa. It seems as if eating disorders and anxiety are intertwined. Dealing with daily anxiety has been one of the worst side effects of having anorexia. I have often said "if I could only get rid of the anxiety . . ."
What It's Like Living with Anxiety and Anorexia
It sometimes feels as if I am battling a monster, an anxiety monster come to life to drive me completely out of my mind. My anxiety can be about anything. I am anxious about something I might have said or done wrong. I worry about the grade on my latest graduate school assignment. I am afraid that my husband/family member/friend/professor/whomever is mad at me and I will never be forgiven.
Of course, my anxiety really cranks up when it comes to food. I am, right now, trying to recover from a rather long relapse and therefore, I still constantly struggle with food issues. I feel as if I'm surrounded by food everywhere this time of year and it causes me to be very anxious. (anxiety and anorexia)
Thoughts race through my brain. I've eaten too much. I'm going to gain weight. I don't want to gain weight. But the doctor says I need to gain weight in order to be healthy. I am too thin. I am not thin enough. The number on the scale is never right no matter what it is. I just want to hide until . . . well, until food doesn't provoke so much anxiety in me. Until I finally realize the truth, that I need to gain weight and I can do it without exploding with anxiety.
Does any of this sound familiar to you?
Anxiety and Eating Disorder
I don't believe this type of anxiety is confined to people with anorexia. I have several friends struggling with binge eating disorder, and eating out makes them very anxious. My one friend, Rachel, is obese and she said she feels as if everyone is staring at her plate when she eats. She has been working hard at overcoming binge eating disorder; however, she still enjoys being social and going out to eat with her friends and church members. But the stares and subsequent anxiety — and I don't think that it is her imagination — often makes her turn down social events.
I know of other people who struggle with bulimia nervosa and find being around large amounts of food makes them very anxious. As we enter the holiday season, it will be harder and harder for all of us with eating disorders to avoid the huge food fests that seem to be part of it, but often just make us anxious.
Treatment of Anxiety and an Eating Disorder
So what can a person with anxiety and an eating disorder do? Fellow HealthyPlace blogger, Kate White, offers some great tips for combating anxiety in general. I have learned a variety of anxiety management techniques during my multiple hospitalizations, and I find the ones that remove me from most stimuli and allow me to just breathe and relax are the most helpful.
There also is antianxiety medication. I reluctantly agreed to low doses of Ativan and Seroquel this summer when I started to feel as if the anxiety was eating me alive. (Seroquel, an anti-psychotic, is often used in low doses for anxiety with eating disorder patients. This is called prescribing off-label.)
The medication has calmed my anxiety somewhat, and I know without it I would not be able to function as fully as I do. Anything to beat the Anxiety Monster.
Gambrel, A. (2010, November 27). Eating Disorders and the Anxiety Monster, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, August 15 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivinged/2010/11/eating-disorders-and-the-anxiety-monster