Dealing with the Emotions of Anorexia Nervosa Recovery

November 4, 2011 Angela E. Gambrel

The emotional aspects of anorexia recovery can be very painful, but learning to deal with emotions is part of the recovery process for all eating disorders.

For weeks, I have struggled to do anything beyond the bare minimum. Eating disorders are in part coping mechanisms, and can be deceptively helpful in masking painful emotions. That can make recovery from an eating disorder very difficult, because most people struggle with painful emotions and would rather push these feelings aside than face them.

I always like to think I am different - but I am not - and that I can push through the emotions the recovery stirs up. Each time I begin the recovery process with a fierce determination to beat anorexia nervosa for the last time. I feel strong and sure as I start to eat regular meals and snacks and stop all related eating disorder behaviors, and I know in my heart that I will travel the road to full recovery without roadblocks or detours.

But emotions can only be suppressed for so long, and I inevitably become anxious and depressed as I begin to eat like a normal person. Determination fades and strength wavers as all the emotions that I couldn't feel while in the middle of my eating disorder come roaring back, leaving me cowering in the corner.

The Emotional Aspects Of Anorexia Recovery

Yes, I have stressors that make recovery harder for me. I am dealing with a failing marriage and trying to write my thesis about anorexia for graduate school. But so what? Everybody has stress in their lives, and my combination of stressful life events is not any harder than what anybody else is going through.

The problem is that I am trying to eat instead of using my eating disorder or other unhealthy behaviors to mask the emotions. This is what I am supposed to be doing. This is the first step toward full recovery.

lonely-personBut I have spent years suppressing my emotions through restricting and starvation, and I struggle to move forward each time I reach this stage of recovery. It feels like my mind is always swirling with painful emotions. I think about the pain of my failed marriage. I worry that I will never be able to make it on my own. I become afraid that I will be alone the rest of my life. I start thinking that recovery is an elusive goal that is beyond my reach, that recovery is for other, stronger people.

It is at this point that I often stop eating normally and start restricting. Unfortunately, that only perpetuates the cycle as the less I eat, the worst I feel both physically and mentally. My eating disorder behaviors no longer mask anxiety and depression, and I am left feeling as if I am stuck in the dark cage of anorexia.

Emotions Will Not Kill Me . . . Or You

Right now I am at the stage where I am eating more, but not quite enough to completely silence the eating disorder voice that continues to scream at me to stop eating and that I don't deserve to recover. I spoke with my eating disorders psychiatrist about this today, and he said I already knew the answer — I needed to eat more. The more nourished my brain becomes, the more I will be able to think clearly and move forward with recovery.

Of course, the answer will be different for each person depending upon his or her eating disorder. For example, someone with bulimia would need to break the binge and purge cycle to move toward full recovery. Someone who has cutting behaviors — a common symptom in people with eating disorders — would need to stop cutting. A person with binge eating disorder would need to stop binging on food.

The commonality between all eating disorders is stopping the eating disorder behavior, allowing yourself to feel the emotions that are going to come up, and find healthier ways to deal with those emotions. HealthyPlace offers a variety of information about eating disorders and treatment.

Dealing with My Emotions in Anorexia Recovery

I still huddle in my bed each morning, terrified to start my day. I still struggle to do many things that seemed so simple in the past — go visit a friend, pick up some groceries, visit my mother, make a phone call. I still wish at times that I could completely dive back into anorexia and allow it to consume me and all the pain that I feel at this moment.

But there is no life in anorexia. There is no life in having any eating disorder. So I try to plan something each day so I have to get out of bed, and I still work hard on my graduate studies because I do not want to fail this close to getting my master's degree. I think about my dreams for my future, and that is often enough to make me get out of bed, get dressed, and make myself face the day. And I pray that one day it will get easier for me and others who struggle.

APA Reference
Gambrel, A. (2011, November 4). Dealing with the Emotions of Anorexia Nervosa Recovery, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 19 from

Author: Angela E. Gambrel

Leave a reply