Individuals with eating disorders are often afflicted with distorted beliefs that result from their disorder. Most individuals with eating disroders like anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa view their bodies incorrectly, placing too much value on appearance. Some examples include thoughts such as, “If only I was thinner, then I would be happy” or “If I ate what I wanted to eat, I would become huge." These distorted beliefs become a source of emotional discomfort and can cause other related problems for individuals suffering from Anorexia, Bulimia or Compulsive Overeating. Beliefs about events, others and self have a significant influence on feelings and actions taken. For anorexics, bulimics, and compulsive eaters, when beliefs are distorted, the resulting feelings and actions may not match true situations. For eating disordered individuals to rectify their distorted beliefs into matching their current situation the eating disordered individual must first:
- Become conscious of their belief system;
- Identify the eating disorder distortions they contain and any benefits that may have been obtained from the distortions; and
- Learn to substitute more accurate non-eating disordered alternative beliefs for the distorted beliefs.
The following are definitions of some of the most commonly used distortions among anorexia, bulimia and compulsive eating.
Black or White Thinking:
This sort of distortion can be devastating to individuals’
self-esteem, since even tiny imperfections are viewed as proof of their total
worthlessness. Individuals suffering from Anorexia, Bulimia or Compulsive Overeating often see themselves in terms of extremes. Black and white statements include: "I am either good or bad", "a success or complete failure,"" worthwhile" or "worthless." This type of distortion has devastating consequences on self esteem since small imperfections are taken as proof of the belief of total worthlessness. Instead, eating disordered individuals must learn to see that life mostly exists in the gray. A fair inventory of anyone will show negative, as well as, positive attributes.
This eating disorder distortion is when an anorexic, bulimic or compulsive eater takes an isolated event and then draws a broad general rule from the event. This new distorted broad rule is then applied to numerous situations. An example would be from a sexual abuse experience by an abuser, which could be over generalized to the belief that "all men will abuse me." An alternative belief would be that the offender is an abusive individual, but not all men I come into contact with will abuse me.
This is a distortion in which an individual with an eating
disorder takes one personal deficiency and makes it the cornerstone of their existence. An example of this distortion would be "I did not stop the binge, therefore I am an entirely weak person." No one event or characteristic determines our entire worth. Eating disorders are diseases that willpower alone will not arrest.
This distortion in an anorexic, bulimic or compulsive eater occurs when a negative detail is picked out from an event and obsessed on to the exclusion of all other facts. This is called mental filtering because the negative detail remains, but all other information is filtered out. For eating disordered individuals, if someone tells them ten positive attributes of their personality and one negative attribute, they will focus on the one negative attribute to the exclusion of the ten positive attributes.
Disqualifying the Positive:
This eating disorder distortion is where any positive experience is transformed into a negative one by discounting. A common example would be receiving positive attention from a person and believing that "the only reason he pays attention to me is because he wants something from me." This distortion prevents individuals suffering from Anorexia, Bulimia or Compulsive Eating from receiving affirmations and positive messages from others.
Magnification and Minimization:
Magnification refers to the distortion for anorexics, bulimics and compulsive eaters of magnifying negative attributes and deficiencies. Minimization is the eating disorder distortion of downplaying positive attributes. These eating disorder distortions are a double edged sword against self esteem since negative aspects are exaggerated and good points are minimized.
In this type of distortion anorexics, bulimics and compulsive eaters take feelings and turn them into facts. For example, many eating disordered individuals feel guilty about the eating disorder behavior and through this type of distortion anorexics, bulimics and compulsive eaters rationalize that since they feel guilty about the eating disorder behavior, they must be guilty. In actuality, eating disorders are diseases and therefore no one is to blame even though the eating disordered individual may be the one having the feeling and carrying the burden of guilt.
Many individuals suffering from Anorexia, Bulimia or Compulsive Eating live with the "tyranny of the shoulds." These should statements are often unrealistic expectations for the eating disordered individual and others, often setting the eating disordered individual up for disappointment and failure. Examples include: "I should have willpower," "I should be able to stop this," "I should have known better," I should have told someone," "She should have known," and "I should have stopped him."
This eating disorder distortion is a misattribution of responsibility often found in survivors of abuse. Survivors of abuse often inappropriately accept the responsibility for the abuse. A common misinformed statement is, "I must have been responsible for the abuse since I did not resist and it went on for so long." This is not true since a survivor of abuse often does not have the capacity or knowledge to resist abuse.
These are some of the more common distorted thoughts and beliefs. Rader Programs understands how individuals develop these thought processes and can help individuals replace these dysfunctional thought processes with healthy accurate beliefs.