Emotions and ED behaviours

We all know that emotions are a natural part of everyday life. We are human, and we all have feelings! Sad, happy, scared, anxious, frustrated. excited, angry, etc...all of these are emotions that we may feel at one point or another.

How do you express your emotions? Some people are verbal, telling others how they feel. Others keep their feelings to themselves, but you can 'see' their feelings based on how they are acting or appear. Now, we've all had days when we feel frustrated, angry, or sad. And sometimes, we want to tell others how we feel and 'let our feelings out'. However, sometimes, we feel so down or drained that we simply don't have the energy or motivation to speak to others about how our emotions. And that is okay. But what happens when we don't have ways in which we can cope with our emotions or experiences?

Emotion regulation is a phrase used to denote how we handle our emotions. As mentioned, negative feelings can be dealt with in many ways. Some people prefer to talk about their feelings, others use relaxation tips or meditation, while others play a game, write in a journal, or read a book. In patients with ED, negative emotions can be quite difficult to manage. Feelings of anger, sadness, stress, and frustration can make the patient feel isolated, scared, and anxious. This can lead to ED behaviours such as purging, binging, or restriction (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/erv.2183/abstract?deniedAccessCustomisedMessage=&userIsAuthenticated=false).

As you can imagine, this can become a dangerous and repetitive cycle. If a patient with ED feel sad or angry, he or she may restrict the next meal. Then, the patient feels bad about not eating, tired and weak, and scared. What happens at the next meal? The patient doesn't eat because of these negative feelings as well. Now, the patient is caught in this cycle: negative feeling, don't eat. Feel even worse? Don't eat. Feel tired, weak, and fat? Don't eat.

What is the solution? Firstly, helping the patient recognize and express emotions is critical. Talking about emotions is a great way to release them and draw upon the support and care of others. Even those without ED can attest to the power of speaking with a caring individual. Other outlets such as writing, singing, playing, reading, etc. are also helpful. Along with stopping ED behaviours, adequate nutrition, and weight maintenance, it will become easier for patients with ED to identify, express, and handle negative emotions. With recovery, someone who struggled with ED will notice that even when they feel down or angry, restriction or ED behaviours are simply not an option. By expressing emotions or dealing with them in a positive way. the individual will be able to maintain an optimal state of health. Try it out yourself, even if you don't have ED. Try expressing a negative emotion such as anger, fear, anxiety, or sadness. Talk to someone who cares, write it down on a piece of paper, or practice deep-breathing. How do you feel after? Although the problem may still be there, you will likely feel better - and perhaps even strong enough to consider how you will  deal with the situation. When we are able to regulate our emotions, we are able to think clearly and be healthy.

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