Symptoms: A cry for help?

I imagine that many of you have realized that an eating disorder, the behaviors and obvious affects on a person's body, are not only indications of emotional distress, but also a cry for help. I don't think many, if any, realize at the time, but only after becoming more aware of the nuances of the disorder, and it's deeper meaning or purpose for their life.
In my job, I find it interesting to witness various aspects of recovery from an objective perspective, and to have the opportunity to expand my understanding of this process.
Like many behaviors that were a part of my own eating disorder, I can understand the issue of how the ED serves as a cry for help for many the point that some may exaggerate their ED behaviors out of a deeper need to be cared for. Not for a minute do I believe that this is meant to be manipulative, but only happens because one knows no other option.
I remember from my own experience, when I may not have exaggerated the degree of my symptoms, but I did seek more focus on physical ailments, or 'need' medical attention, and I know that came from that same place of need.
What are YOUR thoughts? As we all know, the experience of an eating disorder is not one easily explained, or 'figured out'. We, as individuals, do and say things that are not of our nature, but of the nature of the disorder. I take responsibility for any of those things now, but I did not have that awareness at the time.
I am curious to hear others' thoughts....Jan ♥

I find it interesting that you say one may exaggerate their behaviors for a need to be cared for, not for manipulative purposes. I would actually think that many with an ED would not talk about their behaviors or make them seem less severe. I know in my own experience, when I have confided in a friend I feel so ashamed of myself that I try to make my behaviors less severe or skip them all together in fear of them flipping out or rejecting me. Especially when it came to my parents- when I told them after the second relapse they thought it was some minor thing and they still do today. I would never talk to them about any specifics.

allee…I think this is not a common issue, but it does happen. I think it’s due to the fears associated with ‘giving up’ the eating disorder, and believing that one may not receive the love and care that they so deserve or want if they are not still ‘sick’. It takes a while to learn to trust our own ‘voices’ in terms of asking for what we need, accepting what is offered to us, and realizing that we deserve to be loved, sick or not. It’s a learning process, after only knowing the ED as a possible way to be taken care of.
I understand what you are saying. There is usually a lot of underserved shame about having an eating disorder, but once you have people around you who understand, this dynamic may present itself.
To me, it goes back to empowering yourself to speak your voice, and for many of us, that also can be a terrifying thought.
Thanks…Jan :heart:

Yes Jan the ED is used as a cry for help...but in an inconspicuos way.We ourselves don't really see it or want to make it obvious,but sometimes not always ...others can see.I have to agree with allee speaking for myself I was ashamed for anyone to know I too lied of the severity of my behaviors.Its a cry for help without us really realising thats what we are doing.Am I makeing sense?

Yes Grace…perfect sense! :heart:

Hi Jan

I can certainly relate to your observation that an ED is symptom of crying out for help. I believe that mine started as a subconscious reaction to the marital friction between my parents. I stopped eating and starved myself to draw my parents attention away from their problems and on to me. Of course I was not doing this knowingly, and its only after studying psychology myself that I am able to identify this as a major factor of the ED. Its interesting that after our first intense round of therapy (we had family therapy) after I was released from hospital that my parents ended up splitting up and are now divorced. What is also interesting, though, is even though they are no longer together and I have fully accepted that they will never get along again, the ED has remained. So now Im at the stage of not figuring out how my ED started, I have that one nailed, but why it has not gone away even though the root cause of it has. Perhaps, in my case, it was more than just a cry for attention.

Any thoughts?

Simone...thank you for sharing! The issues that you speak of about your parents' relationship could very well have played a large part in the development of the eating disorder. I think it's important to remember that what may have been a part of that development, may no longer be a maintaining factor. The concept and truth, that an eating disorder becomes a way of dealing with emotional distress, speaks to how it may 'work' in different situations...or seem to.
How it began, is not as important as figuring out what changes must be made in order to move beyond it. That is something to explore...hopefully with a professional. Take care...Jan ♥

Well said, friend. :slight_smile: You are always so insightful. :slight_smile: Love you!


tinkerbell, jan-
this is very intriguing. i've never really considered how one might exagerate symptoms. it makes as much sense as when one hides symptoms. and if i really let myself think about it, i'm sure that historically i have exagerated symptoms in order to command a certain TYPE of attention.
when i was younger, i believe i actually flaunted certain aspects while desperately hiding others. blatantly not eating, wearing skimpy clothing to expose my disappearing-act, making jokes about my *oddities*... and at the same time, other shameful aspects were guarded with my life.
shifting and twisting have served many purposes... trying to get comfortable in my skin has been the main reason. but i also figured out pretty quickly that shifting and twisting could get people to see ONLY what i wanted them to see. so when college staff intervened in my disappearing-act, i offered no open-arms welcome... shifting and twisting to get back under the radar served me well..... [ha]. and when the TYPE of attention i wanted took a turn, i fake-ate, i covered up, i shut the hell up about my *oddities*.
ahhh, but the past is in the past. perhaps it is the vanity i have gained with age, but hiding symptoms is far more my gig... so many years of hiding and lying.... it's taking a LOT of time to unearth and decode.
i have much appreciation for ALL aspects of how people deal with this illness. we ARE all different, and we all need different things at different times.
armed with a cardigan and rocks in my pocket-