Posted by: VoiceinRecovery | June 22, 2010

Eating Disorders as a Coping Skill

I believe eating disorders can often a way to cope with life (note: I do recognize how complex eating disorders are and understand they are also genetic, cultural, psychological, etc.) They can often be a used as a way to cope with feelings, emotions, stresses, trauma, anxiety, PTSD, etc. I think they are very effective – they have worked as a survival tool to help many people through all the things I mentioned before and many more. I don’t think they are insane, crazy, irrational, and I don’t think anyone suffering, or recovering is innately wrong, broken, unworthy, etc. I think it makes complete sense. It has been a way to cope. It is also the only way many know how to cope. No one is born with all the skills they need in life to handle all situations they will face. We need skills, tools, ways to create different choices to utilize better coping skills with different situations. I believe we can all learn from children, to feel, to express, to allow ourselves to be in the moment, and to move on from the feeling to the next like a wave. I think we as adults can also change the way our children grow up, and help give them better tools than we may have been given.

Parents aren’t given all the tools, they are human, just as any other person. Sometimes the need to place blame gets in the way of recovery from an eating disorder, in my opinion. I believe we can recover if we want to. I believe we can learn NEW skills and tools, and find a healthy relationship to feelings and emotions and not let them drive our behaviors. We are in the driver seat in our lives. We can find our voice, find what our feelings are, learn to NAME those feelings, learn to “be” with our feelings without judgment, and learn new skills and coping mechanisms that are more effective, not harmful, and respectful of who we are and who we want to be in this life.

My purpose in life, and my passion, is this work. I want to prevent eating disorders, I want to prevent self hate. I want to promote self acceptance, promote healthy relationships with self, promote mindfulness in each journey we face in life. I know the path I have taken is challenging, I know body image is such a prevalent issue with all women – but I think if we learn to have a relationship with ourselves, and learn to simply be OK with who we are, allow ourselves to feel, and learn new ways of dealing with every curve ball thrown our way – we can find our way out of the pressures we feel in society, the pressures we put on ourselves, the pressures we feel from family.

I believe it’s NEVER to late to change, to want to work on ourselves, to learn new ways being. No one person has all the answers.

Be true to who you are. Be true to your feelings. Feel without judgment. Ride the wave. Life is a journey – we never stop learning. Be open to new experiences, new ways of doing things, new skills and tools that at first are challenging. New things are always challenging, you may feel uncomfortable with change – we all do – but we can learn to be patient with ourselves in this process. No person can tell you how to feel, no person can express your feelings for you, no person can live your life – so be in charge of your life. Take the wheel and know its OK to fall, to stumble, to mess up, to succeed, to be sad, angry, frustrated, happy, balanced, sane, crazy, etc. You are not alone. I hear your voice. I support you on your individual journey.

To end – a little from “Eating in the Light of the Moon” by Anita Johnston, Ph. D.

“Recovery from disordered eating begins with the understanding that the disordered eating behavior served you when your goal was survival. This understanding is then followed by the development of new skills that will enable you not to simply survive, but to get what you want out of life, to thrive. Survival is no longer the only goal. The goal becomes one that includes a life that is rich and fulfilling.

It is a gradual step-by step process that calls for letting go of judgment (“there is something wrong with me”), and the development of some important life skills, and learning to trust that inner voice that will tell you when you are ready.”


  1. This was very true in my case and still is. Ed is strongest when I’m stressed because he has been my coping mechanism from traumas for 15 years (how long Ed’s been around….one trauma was around longer). Proof of this was memories coming back when I started tackling him 3 years ago. He had been used to numb and cope with what was upsetting me and still gets stronger the more I’m stressed out.

    I’m fighting him now, though, and putting new coping mechanisms such as art and poetry in there instead. It’s helping out and I must say, Ed does NOT like it! He still wants to be THE coping mechanism I use. I’m being stubborn though and learning new coping mechanisms instead of his old way. It will be well worth it in the end.

    • I’m really enjoying reading your articles! Are you familiar with Body They are a resource I’ve used and just become a firm believer and fan in the work they do. They support the struggles women, teens and girls have with their body image and the suffering that occurs. The pain. I’ve met some really amazing people there and have had some real healing experiences. They offer workshops on body image and are just so supportive and strong in their commitment to end women’s suffering.

      • I am only briefly aware – but intend to now go check it out!!! Thank you so much for letting me know about it. Sounds in line with MUCH of ViR’s message 🙂

  2. Okay, this is my favorite post that you have written. Love, love, love it.
    I could relate to every word. When I was sick, I was surviving. Coping as best I knew how. Now, on the other side, I see other women in the same boat and *I* know they can get better. But, it’s up to them in the long run. All we can do is lend a hand.
    I had a conversation today with a friend and we talked about some things we’ve done in our pasts that are less than honorable. She said, “I still judge myself about it all, even though it was in my 20’s. Doens’t every woman?” and I could honestly say that I don’t anymore. I’ve forgiven myself for it all.

  3. I find it interesting how so many of our coping skills, me and my hiding away, eating disorders as a coping skill, have similar roots and similar reasons for why they work in their way. That might be why some of the ways we recover from the two different things are similar.

    Thank you for sharing this

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