Genuine Help For Eating Disorder sufferers and caregivers.On this site you will learn how to beat your eating disorder with the power of neuroplasticity and awareness therapy.
This article is for spouses, parents, friends or other caregivers who want to help their loved ones to recover from their eating disorder by building their self-esteem first.
A lack of self-esteem can ruin any relationship. Unfortunately, most of eating disorder sufferers have low self-esteem and if you are in relationship with them it is your responsibility to help them to built their self-esteem up.
This problem is especially relevant for marriages because in adult life there is no other relationship like marriage. Eating disorders can cause serious problems in marriages because the sufferer often feels guilty, inadequate, not worthy, anxious or depressed.
This can lead to lack of intimacy, openness and poor communication.
But, by helping your spouse (or other loved one) to build her/his self-esteem will improve your relationship with the person and also help them to fight their eating disorder.
Here we are giving you 12 useful tips on how to build self-esteem in eating disorder person.
1. Show unconditional love. Love your spouse (or daughter, or friend or other loved one) without any conditions or limitations. If you have issues with your loved one’s behaviour, discuss it with them in friendly manner. Don’t show your distress with them. Show your love, without demand and command. Tells them : “I love you and love the way you are, but this behaviour make me think that maybe we should talk and discuss if there is anything wrong.”
2. Offer your genuine support. Let your spouse (or the other loved one) know that you support them completely. This means that when someone is berating them you will step up to your loved one’s defence. In a marriage, the relationship between the husband and wife outweigh all other relationships. So, you should stand by your spouse first and foremost.
3. Appreciate what they do. Appreciating her for what she does will help her to trust you and feel more comfortable with you. Whether it is something small like cooking a dinner or washing up, let your loved one know that you appreciate it. Is she a great mom or daughter , or sister, or friend? Acknowledge this . Try to appreciate her as much as you can. That will pull her attention away from her eating disorder and make her focus more on the things she is good at. This also will build her self-esteem up by knowing that she is useful and needed.
4. Show her your respect. Respecting means simple things like to say “please” , “thank you” and to talk in a friendly tone of voice. Those are little gestures that go a long way. Don’t treat your loved one like a child. She/he is an adult so, treat them as an adult. Criticising your loved one and treating her/him as a child is degrading and rude.
5. Share the credit. Because eating disorder sufferers have low self-esteem she may not see the contributions she makes or regard them as insignificant. You should point out these things to her and tell that without her this would not happen. Tell that not only to her/him, but to others as well. Brag on your loved one (within earshot preferably) about her/his talents or what she/he does.
6. Discover their “hidden talents”. Ask your loved one about things what they like to do or do well. Eating disorder sufferers normally are perfectionist. Perfectionism is their personality trait. This trait is also one of the things why they got an eating disorder in the first place. Perfectionism can also mean that the person is very clever, smart and talented but because of the eating disorder and the low self-esteem all her/his talents remain hidden.
Help them discover their hidden talents. Encourage them to take a class, pursue a dream or get an interesting job. You may be surprised that her/his interest will interest you too. Then, you can go on the same journey together.
7. Don’t forget “little things”. “Little things” means leaving notes, giving little gifts and do special things for your loved one. In a marriage it is nice to write her a letter even though you don’t go away. Just write her nice encouraging words, express your dream and write something you think will inspire her.
But don’t wait for a special occasion. “Just because” gestures mean much more.
8. Never be deprecating (especially in public). Never put your loved one down. Avoid generalizations such as “you always make a fuss out of nothing” or “you always behave immature when you talk to your parents.” These types of statements will leave your loved one with feelings that they never do anything right. Saying bad things about your loved one in public is unacceptable. It damages their self-esteem even more. It can also bring depression or anxiety on.
9. Be interested in them. Make sure that you know your loved one favourite colour and their favourite animal. Talk to them about the way they were brought up. What did they want to be when they grew up? What is the one dream they would like to fulfil before they die? Find out the little things and then use that information.
For example, if your loved one loves the blue colour, buy for her as a little gift a blue coffee cup or a blue scarf or blue slippers. Let them know what you love. If they present you with a little gift – express your joy and general good mood.
Continue to explore your loved one and play on “little things”. Remember, “little things” can mean for her/him more than big ones. “Little things” can make her feel loved and trust you more. Trust will improve her self-esteem significantly.
10. Ask them for their opinion. The four most important words to create and maintain a good relationship are “What is your opinion?” Nothing else decreases a person’s self-esteem faster than having a partner who does not take their opinions into consideration.
When you are going to buy a car or a suit for a meeting or even change the colour of the kitchen walls just ask your loved one what they think. Let them know that you value and trust their opinion. Thanks them for their opinion even if you disagree with it. When you do that you show them that you value and trust them and that will improve their self-esteem.
11. Respect their privacy and respect their personal space. Although you and the loved one are in a close relationship this does not mean you own the person. Many abusive problems are personal space problems. Personal space depend on a habitat level by profession, livelihood and occupation. Learn the boundaries of how far you can go without becoming an intruder. The boundaries are very individual and what is good for you – may not necessary good for her/him. Watch her/his emotional reaction to your action and follow your intuition.
12. Develop trust. Trust is what you should focus on in all your actions. Anorexia people have difficulties to trust something or someone outside one’s self. When trust begins, it is likely to grow into acceptance many things which were forbidden in the past – such as food and relationships with other people. Trust will make your loved one love herself and others.
Very often people wonder how they can help an ED person to get better. What they can do at home that can be useful for the sufferer’s recovery?
My answer always is “First of all, help them to built their self-esteem up and trust in others. Trust will make them love themselves and respect others.”
Also, family members often want to know if there was anything they have done in the past that could contribute to the development of an eating disorder in their loved one. They often say that they have never abused the sufferer not physically nor emotionally and they can’t understand why their loved one has an eating disorder.
But the child emotional trauma is not always obvious to adults. The child emotional problems in the family could be due to:
- Poor communication between parents and a child: this is one of the primary problems from which many other issues come also. Poor communication with a child can manifest itself in several damaging ways. When a child has issues with something that the parents do or say, that child may seek refuge inside themselves rather than talking to the parents.
In holding back their feelings, emotions and thoughts, existing issues can often seem exaggerated and insurmountable. Because a child can’t find refuge in their parent’s arms, the child can start using other available things to moderate their emotions – like food for example.
- Failing to listen what child is saying: A damaging side effect of poor communication is a tendency to not hear what the child is saying or showing with her/his behaviour. Children with low self-esteem may be distracted by the internal conversation they are having within. To notice the subtle hints displayed by the child is the responsibility of the parents.
The parents may grow weary of resolving issues by listening because they fail to understand what their child is going through. This breakdown in the communication process can create a wedge between the parents and a child.
- Arguments About Trivial Things: When children suffer from low self-esteem, these children may try to camouflage major issues which is really bothering them, and discuss less-important or trivial problems. Children delude themselves that the parents will understand what really is bothering them.
The problem is that children are typically unable to infer the real issue because it has not been clearly communicated. As both parties (children and parents) become frustrated, they often begin arguing about matters that have little to do with the real issues.
For instance, the big argument about cleaning up a bedroom could be a result of parents not understanding that the mess in the bedroom is result of the child rebelling against something.
- Lack Of Intimacy: A family in which children have low self-esteem typically lacks strong intimacy. This could be due to a couple of reasons. First, children with poor self-esteem may simply feel inadequate (due to their own perception or a perception encouraged by parents).
Second, older children may not feel worthy to have an intimate experience with anyone.
By intimate experience I mean being closely connected spiritually to someone.
It is a simple fact that in families where warm relationships are encouraged by parents the children grow up much better adjusted people then in families with cold parental attitudes. Psychological problems and disorders in families with warm parental attitudes are less compare to families with cold parental attitudes.
- Growing Resentment: When a child’s self-esteem is damaged, she/he can begin to internalize and personalize issues. Over time, resentment builds for the parents and other people as well. This is largely due to not being comfortable in communicating their issues.
When children and parents stop talking to each other and one of the family members begins personalizing problems, both children and parents can often develop a lingering resentment against each other.
To conclude, self-esteem is a key factor in the success or failure of a family and its members.
When one family member has low self-esteem, communication and intimacy suffer, leading to growing resentment between child and parents. This kind of resentment could be one of the reasons why children develop eating disorders.
So, building up self-esteem is still the first major step that families must undertake in order to help their loved one recover from their eating disorder.
The Main Questions You Must Ask Yourself in order to Cure Your Eating Disorder.
We have already discussed what eating disorders are about. They are about coping, relationships, life-style, thoughts and feelings.
Sufferers become slaves to their disorder. They do everything possible to be able to act out their compulsions (binging-purging, starving, overexercising, taking laxatives etc.) The ED becomes a substitute for the most valuable things in their lives like friendship and lifestyle.
Think about it– would you have turned to an eating disorder if you had good coping strategies, were able to manage your emotions better and had good relationships with people? Probably not, because eating disorders are always caused by discomfort and discomfort comes from paying too much attention to the problem that caused the discomfort in the first place.
1st question: What would you be doing right now, if you had absolutely no limitations, you were a billionaire, and you knew you could not fail?
2nd question: What would you share with the world, if your message were to be broadcast throughout all of the world’s television stations for 5 minutes? What would you say, what would your message be?
Did you answer these questions? If not stop reading and answer them first… Why?
Because knowing the answer to these two questions are very important to conquer your ED.
As we know eating disorders are disorders of:
- life style,
- coping ,
- thoughts and feelings.
So basically what is holding you back from a better life is only a bunch of negative feelings and emotions that appear to be your eating disorder. You really have to think of why this is, what good is it doing you to be held back by something that is not real and thoughts and negative emotion are not real.
They are just how you perceive them to be, ask someone else about these feelings and see what they think. The answer would probably be: so what, what’s the big deal, just laugh them off and get on with life. They are not trying to be mean to you or put your feelings down; they really are not such a big deal in the grand scheme of things. So why are you letting them ruin your life: it just doesn’t make sense?
But now let’s go to your answers for the questions above. Did you find the questions difficult? Or you just can’t believe in that they are possible? If this is the case, please open your mind, accept the possibility without the proof and discover the real you that hides in the shadows of your eating disorder.
Every experience we have had in the past, or will have in the future, always, without exception, has an emotional element attached to it. You got your eating disorder because you started attaching too many emotions to your body image and yourself in general. This emotional component took up most of you attention.
OK there may have been some really bad things that got you to where you are, but you can’t change the past. Is the person responsible for these bad things suffering?
I don’t think so?
So let me ask you this: why are you???
Don’t let these misguided misplaced feelings and emotions ruin your life: it is time for you to change and neuroplasticity will certainly do this for you.
1. By sprouting new endings from the body of the neuron and connecting them differently to the different neurons.
2. Changing the levels of brain chemicals (neurotransmitters)
3. Growing new neurons (this process is called neurogenesis)
Let’s quickly look through them one by one.
1. Sprouting of new neuronal endings will occur when you start doing new behaviors or new actions. These new behaviors have to be done repeatedly and regularly in order to sprout new endings.
For example, when you start regularly performing the act of binging, purging or starving oneself your brain cells (neurons) sprout new endings forming eating disorder pathways. These are then responsible for the binge, purge and starving episodes.
You continue because the urge is so strong as you have built these faulty neuronal pathways in your brain.
You may feel that it is impossible for you to stop these abnormal actions but the truth is that you can stop these bad actions by sprouting new neuronal endings and forming new neuronal pathways which can replace the old ones. The mechanism for sprouting these new endings (good one) is exactly the same – you should start performing new constructive behaviors regularly; ones not based on food abuse.
2. Changing the level of brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) – can also occur with different behaviors you do. Some certain behaviors we do because the level of brain chemicals remains too high or too low.
For example, neurotransmitter acetylcholine gets produced when people start learning and paying more attention to things they are learning.
Acetylcholine is your attention getter. It gets produced when you pay attention to things and you became more attentive and learn better when you have a sufficient level of acetylcholine being produced. So, memorizing poetry, learning a foreign language, solving math problems, writing an essay, learning about how your brain works and etc. – all these activity will improve the level of acetylcholine in your brain.
People with eating disorders often can’t concentrate. It is because the level of the brain chemical acetylcholine is too low. But to improve it you must force yourself to focus and concentrate on something useful. Then your concentration will become better because by initial forcing yourself to concentrate you improve the level of this important chemical in your brain.
3. Growing new neurons. Recent research shows growing evidence that the adult human brain creates new neurons, a process known as neurogenesis. Now scientists have found that the areas in the brain where these new neurons grow can be stimulated by actions and neurogenesis occurs. One of the most important areas where neurogenesis occurs is in the hippocampus.
The hippocampus is the middle part of the brain and it forms one part of limbic system. The hippocampus is directly responsible for memory and our emotions.
People with eating disorders most likely have a chemical imbalance in hippocampus. Eating disorder sufferers store lots of memories of hurts and dissatisfaction with themselves in hippocampus. And their bad emotions come from these memories.
The conclusion is that by growing new neurons in the hippocampus you may help stop your distractive eating disorder behaviour.
Now you are probably interested in how you can stimulate the processes of neurogenesis.
Our next article will explain it all.
3) What are Neurotransmitters and How do they Influence the development of Eating Disorders?
Neurotransmitters are chemicals which facilitate the transmission of signal from one neuron to another. Neurotransmitters are released in synapses (or where the ending of one neuron connects to the endings of another neuron).
There are different types of neurotransmitters. Here we will look at the most important ones.
Acetylcholine: Acetylcholine is a chemical which are involved in memory, learning and attention. When you learn something and pay attention to it – you stimulate the production of acetylcholine.
To maintain this chemical at a certain level you must keep your brain busy with attention requiring work. Study, read books, create something, solve puzzles, get a job where you can use your brain. Just do something that can stimulate the production of acetylcholine in the brain.
Eating disorder sufferers have often a very low acetylcholine level especially when they give up their studies, job and other productive activities for the sake of their eating disorder. They normally explain this quitting as the inability to concentrate, being too weak and etc.
This all happens because the level of acetylcholine in their brain is low. But they can improve it by exercising their own will, going back to study and beginning to learn again and paying attention to something more useful and constructive than their eating disorder.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter which produces a sense of well-being calm and satisfaction. Many scientists blame the lack of this chemical for eating disorder problems. Serotonin has a broad function in the brain. It regulates and moderates anger, aggression, body temperature, mood, sleep, human sexuality, appetite, and metabolism, as well as stimulating vomiting.
It is still not clear what exactly happens with serotonin in the brain of eating disorder sufferers, as it is difficult to measure. But we know there are many genetic variations in the serotonin receptors and the serotonin transporters in the brain.
It is most likely that a serotonin abnormality in the brain affects each person differently. Serotonin levels can be increased naturally by taking tryptophan rich foods found in meats and proteins.
Dopamine: Dopamine is a chemical associated with pleasurable activity. It is released when people do naturally rewarding activities like having sex or enjoying food. Some drugs such as nicotine, cocaine and amphetamines can influence the level of dopamine in the brain.
Dopamine is actually the culprit in many addictions such as drugs, food, and sex addictions. Dopamine also has other functions in the brain, including important roles in behaviour and cognition, motor activity, motivation and reward, inhibition of prolactin production which is involved in lactation, sleep, mood, attention, and learning.
Recent research has suggested that dopamine is also released in reward-anticipation activities and when people are motivated to do something. If you have ever wondered why you feel great after doing aerobics or playing sport, this is the brain producing dopamine. Just thinking about doing something pleasurable can produce a chemical ‘reward’ of dopamine being released in your brain.
Enjoyable learning and focusing on something you really like doing will stimulate dopamine production in your brain.
The release of dopamine triggers the desire to eat certain foods. The dopamine does not increase the pleasure of actually eating food but is released when the person sees, smells, thinks or dreams about food. Tasting enjoyable food also provokes the release of dopamine.
Dopamine plays an important role in bulimia and binge eating because these people often dream and think about food. And it is why when a bulimic or binge eater sees food she/he goes on a binge losing all sense of control.
Glutamate –it is believed that glutamate (or glutamic acid) is involved in cognitive functions like learning and memory. Many foods contain glutamate, including cheese, soy sauce, fish, eggs, poultry etc.
GABA is a neurotransmitter which is responsible for muscle tones. GABA regulates the growth embryonic and neural stem cells. Abnormal levels of GABA have been found in people with mood disorders.
Substance P is an important chemical which involves pain perception. It also participates in regulation of mood disorders, anxiety, stress, reinforcement, neurogenesis, nausea and vomiting. The vomiting centre in the brain contains high concentrations of Substance P. Activation of Substance P stimulates vomiting. People who use vomiting as a way of purging have abnormalities in the levels of Substance P.
Conclusion: Neurotransmitters play an important role in the biochemistry of eating disorders. But… The level of most of these neurotransmitters can be moderated by performing or not-performing certain actions and behaviours. Replacing one behaviour with another can change the level of neurotransmitters in the brain.
Wilful action can produce extraordinary changes in the level of these chemicals. For instance, if you wilfully stop your binging or purging episodes for at least 2-3 weeks and replace this behaviour with more productive ones, the level of neurotransmitters in your brain will change significantly and can become completely normal again. This works on the use it or lose it principle.
Always remember: your behaviour will change your biology. If you behave better – your biology improves, if you behave worse – your biology becomes worse.