When you struggle with an eating disorder, your internal trouble runs so much deeper than simply having a negative relationship with food.

In fact, food might even be your second nemesis. The first?

Your own mind.

Intrusive thoughts feed your eating disorder in a profound way. Overcoming disturbing, unproductive thought patterns are a lot like turning the tables in a rowdy card game. The thoughts can feel so powerful when they hit you, until you find ways to transform or replace your negative thoughts. You lose again and again as your inner bully keeps you stuck in a mental loop. Here are several common intrusive thoughts and how they work.

The Uninvited Guest

Many people describe their own intrusive thoughts as an “inner voice” that seemingly belongs to someone else. The voice is degrading, constantly putting you down, and far from harmless to your health.

These thoughts, stuck on mental replay like a broken record, can make you question whether you’re good enough or feel like you don’t deserve to be happy.

This inner voice can be compared to someone walking into your house uninvited.

Intrusive thoughts might tell you that you haven’t “earned” the right to food. Or that you need to work out for two more hours before eating dinner, for example.

While you know that this inner voice is telling you absurd lies, the lies are persistent and become easy to believe. In addition, the intrusive thoughts can dictate your behavior and effectively support your eating disorder.

The Dreaded What-Ifs

Unsurprisingly, if you’re dealing with an eating disorder, you may often succumb to thought patterns of worry.

In fact, worry is another major culprit that might feed your eating disorder. Thoughts about what the future holds can be tormenting. Are you often derailed by the following questions?

• Will you make the right decision?
• What if things don’t work out like you thought they would?
• What if you fail?

Thoughts about your appearance, mental state, or relationships can impact you negatively if not kept in check. Your mind might even be overcome by worst-case scenarios. Haunting what-ifs and rumination can make you feel like your life is out of control. In efforts to regain some internal balance, it’s not uncommon to resort to over-controlling your food intake.

As you can imagine, the cycle continues to pull your mental and physical health downward.

The Perfectionistic Pattern

People who struggle with eating disorders are often very hard-working and driven people. They tend to set goals and successfully manage to reach them. They can be top-notch entrepreneurs, fantastic students, and excellent employees.

Many thrive because of the inner-drive they possess. You might already have guessed that the desire to be perfect can be a huge factor in their success.

The rotten thing about perfectionism? People who possess it often still suffer from low self-esteem and lack self-confidence.

What this means for your eating disorder is that thoughts about how to be more and more perfect can plague you. You might tighten up on your diet and exercise regime striving for the unattainable and compromising your mental and physical health.

It’s like a race that you can’t win. But the temptation to keep running toward perfection is so tempting when pushy, critical thoughts keep invading your mind. All while the eating disorder becomes more and more of a way to attain perfection.

Take the first step…

If you are ready to address your food and body image issues and how they may be affecting your life, I would like to help. Please contact me via phone or email so we can discuss how we might work together to achieve your therapeutic goals as quickly and effectively as possible.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Linda K. Laffey, MFT

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