It is thought that there may be a strong link between anorexia nervosa or other EDs and OCD. This comes from evidence that shows that many people with ED also suffer from OCD, such as hand washing, rituals, etc. For those of you who do not know, OCD is obsessive-compulsion disorder. Obsessions are things always on your mind, and a compulsion is something that you do to relieve that obsession. For example, hand washing: someone is scared of germs so they wash their hands so ofte to the extent that their hands are dry and worn out. OCD is a serious illness, not just a simple problem.
The idea that ED and OCD are related comes from the evidence that people with ED become very rigid. They only eat certain foods, or do not eat at all. Others with ED actually have severe OCD. Now, I do not (and never have had) OCD, but I like this model from a research paper. It models that OCD and ED can be related because of the perfecionist thoughts. For example, my thought when sick was 'I need to lose weight'. This led me to diet and resrict, making sure to lose weight quickly. If I did not lose weight, I did not feel well. I needed to lose more and more. See the obsession? It becomes uncontrolled, however, as the patient gets sicker and sicker. ED does not stop. So the more I lost, the more I felt fat. I could not stop at XXXX pounds. I needed to be even less. And the next day, less was too much. I had to be even smaller.
Like OCD, treatment for ED is difficult. I am not going to go deep into treatement about OCD, because it differs for every patient depending on them and their condition. But, from the ED perspective, the best treatment for the illness is to break the cycle. The restricting needs to stop. The patient needs to understand why this cannot go on forever. A major issue that I had with ED is that no one in treatment tried to help me see that ED was foolish. I mean, they all told me that I would die if I did not stop starving, but no one really took the time to ask me why I restricted my food. It was only when I stopped to think about this that I realized what my real problem was.
For me, restricting had become kind of like an obsession. I HAD to not eat because I HAD to lose weight. I had to lose weight because ED was so strong. I was scared of becoming fat. And hearing 'you will not get far' did not help. But the more I got sick and the worse my future looked, the more I realized that I would die if this went on. I think the moment 'clicked' in my head when I felt that my life was done. I was starving and dying in the ICU. What did losing weight do for me? Nothing. I would not finish my degree and education, I would never do anything again. Heck, I might have even lost my life and never had the chance to see my family again. This hit me - and I realized that all this could be changed with FOOD and eating. Of course, this was easier said than done. Eating was a HUGE challenge. I was scared and horrified at the mere thought of putting food past by mouth. But the thought of dying was worse. It was time to break the 'prefectionist' cycle of starving and dieting.
When you think about ED, it becomes more clear why it is so hard to return to eating normally. I was eating so little and I was scared of food. I did not want to gain weight or eat. But at the same time, this was ruining my life. I KNEW it was bad for me, but I could not stop. Sounsd like an addiction or OCD, right? And what is the best treatment for something like OCD or an addiction? Getting the patient to realize that they need to stop because this problem can take away their life or have lasting effects. But no one could MAKE me do this. No matter how much people told me how I was going to die, it did not work until I realized that this was true. I needed to make the change. And one day in the ICU, I looked at my parents and felt terrible. I wanted to die because it was all too hard. Eating was hard, and not eating was killing me. Then I realized - I can always go back. If life without ED is bad, then I can always starve again. I needed to give life without ED a try. Like an experiment.
Now, a year later, I can say that life without ED is the BEST. Eating normally and not worrying about avoiding food is freedom. Not hearing my stomach rumble is bliss. Of course, there are parts about recovery that I do not exactly enjoy. Like eating when I'm full, or gaining weight. But when I remember how bad life with ED was, I know that I would never go back. When I try to help people with ED choose recovery, I tell them this too. You can always go back. ED is like a bad obsession. It is so hard to stop, to get out of your comfort zone and go against ED. In fact, it is likely the hardest thing you will ever do in your life. But it is the BEST decision you will make. You need to realize that ED becomes an obsession, like OCD. Obsession: staying thin. Compulsion: starve to lose weight. It FEELS good when you start to lose weight. But it soon becomes part of your life, something that is so hard to break away from. Soon, you realize that without losign weight, you would feel terrible. And that is how ED keeps his victims. He makes losing weight and starving a messed-up 'OCD'. Stupid, foolish ED is kind of smart that way. He KNOWS how to make people his slaves.
But there is hope. There is always hope. Recovery is possible, but hard. But anyone who has suffered from ED is strong. That is a fact. I am going to close this post with something that I thought of while recovering. It is a quote that I made up while recovering, and it really helps me when I feel terrible about eating...
The only way to STARVE ED to death is to EAT my way through LIFE.