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Relationship Between Emotion Repression and the Development of Eating Disorders

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Relationship Between Emotion Repression and The Development of Eating Disorders

It is very common for people to hide emotions. For some people, It is even considered unacceptable to express emotions. Coincidentally, eating disorders have also become increasingly common. Both these subjects are a mystery to many people, but for some, both are evident in one's life. Is it possible that these two issues correlate and accompany one another? It has been prominent in eating disorder patients, and mental health professionals have also gained evidence over the years to support this comparison. Therefore, we ask, how and why might repressed emotions and eating disorders be related?

My story is a first-hand, true account of the correlation of repressed emotions and eating disorders. I grew up in a loving, supportive, whole family. The reality that it would ever be another way was very unlikely to me. Yet, by the end of my first week of junior high, I had to face the shocking reality that everything would be another way for the rest of my life. When I was 11, my father passed away from a heart attack. This event was very sudden and unexpected for my family; the worst symptoms my father showed of a future heart attack was occasional pressure in his chest. My dad was a spirited, lively, and loved person; one who passed that on to everyone around him. I was in disbelief for a very long time, and therefore I was not feeling my hidden emotions or expressing them. My mother tried to put me in therapy, but I despised talking to someone I did not know about emotions I could not understand. My mother also remarried the next year, which many thought was quick, but I was relieved at the possibility of a father figure. Their marriage proved rocky, and my step-father would come and go for around two years. It ended in an unfriendly divorce, and I again lost someone and did not deal with the emotions accompanying this loss.

My father's death was just the beginning of my tendency to repress feelings as they came about. I dealt, or should I say did not deal, with the confusion of my emotions by bottling them inside. They only built-up and festered as I kept them inside, but I believe that as time went on I felt it was easier to push them to the side. The emotions I repressed over the years were shock, sadness, loneliness, anger, guilt, and probably more. I did not escape these emotions unharmed; they waited and eventually caught up to me towards the end of my freshmen year in high school.

Even today I cannot tell you the day my disorder started, but I do now know where it came from. I ended my freshmen year with anticipation for an exciting, care-free summer. Around this time, I had also gotten into the schedule of attending the gym daily and I was very serious about getting and staying fit. I suppose staying fit also consisted of eating different as well as healthier. Although I grew up in a very healthy-based, organic eating environment, heightened after my father's heart attack, I began to also feel the need to restrict certain foods for fear of being unfit.

We had a girl's trip consisting of myself, mom, sister, and cousin to St. John towards the beginning of July. It was our second time vacationing in St. John; the first being with close family friends and my mom, dad, and sister. I did not realize it at the time and although I was having an amazing time in a beautiful place with people I really loved, being there without my father was also a huge trigger for my habits. By the time we left for our trip, I was consciously planning out what I would eat in one day and food had become something that was on my mind much of the time. I had also lost weight by this time, and as our trip progressed my mother became more concerned. She would occasionally announce her worry, but I continued to brush her considerations off; even showing frustration towards her because I did not want this to be taken away from me.

We were in St. John for a week and when we arrived home my mother expressed that she felt I had lost even more weight in that short amount of time. Therefore, towards the end of July, my mother thought it was time to assess what we were dealing with before school started in the beginning of August. We went to my usual doctor and he expressed concern about my low body weight, encouraging my mother to watch me closely and proceed further if I did not improve. School began about a week later, and of course I only got worse. Towards the end of September, my mother took me to Ridgeview Institute in Atlanta to get a new diagnosis and hopefully a new treatment plan. I think around this time my mom had realized what I was dealing with was not just a phase and would only continue to get worse.

I arrived at this facility and medical and psychological tests began. After a few hours, the tests came back revealing my diagnosis of Anorexia Nervosa. "Anorexia Nervosa is characterized by an abnormally low body weight (at least 15% below what would be expected), a corresponding fear of weight gain, and an undue emphasis on weight and shape in self-evaluation" (Sim et al. 746). They suggested I start the inpatient program; my mom recognized this was out of her grasp and agreed. About a week later, I went into treatment at Ridgeview. I was fed three meals a day with snacks in between and by the time I got out in the start of December, I had gained a few pounds.

I thought everything would be easier from then on out, but what I quickly learned was the lack of attention Ridgeview had paid to the actual problem behind my anorexia. I walked away from Ridgeview with no knowledge of why my addiction had even begun. I continued to attend Ridgeview daily for another two weeks on an outpatient care plan. I talked my mom into taking me out earlier than was suggested, because I did not like it and it quickly became clear I wanted to engage in my anorexia once again.

Before my mother took the next step for my recovery, there is one thing I did come to realize on my own. This addiction I was struggling with was something, I thought the one thing, I could control. I could control the food I was putting into my body and how my body reacted to it. It was a way to deal with the lack of control I felt I had over my life in the years preceding.

Towards middle January, my mom got serious and started looking online at more intensive treatment programs. I remember finding a calendar in my mom's room with simply, "Aisha" written on February 3rd. I found out that just a week later, I was being sent to Remuda Ranch in Wickenburg, Arizona. I had a temper tantrum like never before, and to deal with my fear of going to this new place I restricted more heavily. Even so, a week later my mom, myself, and my mom's best friend



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