“Finding your “why” in Anorexia” (By: Ashton Maguire)
Anorexia Nervosa is an egosyntonic disorder. Egosyntonic disorders are ones that align with the individual’s values, beliefs, and feelings. In effect, the symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa align with the ideal self-image of the individual struggling with the disorder. The egosyntonic nature of Anorexia results in a lack of motivation to seek help since treatment and support would result in a cessation of the anorexic behaviors that are consistent with their values of perfectionism, the thin-ideal body image, and self-control. Thus, the individual struggling with Anorexia Nervosa protects their eating disorder at all costs, denying the need for treatment over and over again.
Due to the egosyntonic nature of Anorexia, individuals struggling with Anorexia typically do not seek treatment on their own volition without a meaningful purpose. This is the reason that, for those struggling with Anorexia Nervosa, finding your “why” is critical to eventual recovery. The recovery process is long and arduous with many slips and slides along the way, but having a meaningful “why,” a meaningful purpose in the reason for your recovery will pick you up when you slip along the way. Your “why” will motivate you to seek recovery in the first place. Your “why” will allow you to eat the meal that your best friend just cooked you (without even knowing all of the ingredients). Without a meaningful purpose in recovery, the egosyntonic nature of the disorder will pull you back in time and time again.
While each “why” serves the same purpose to orient you back to recovery, no one “why” is the same. One person’s “why” may be getting their social life back after years of isolation due to the eating disorder. Someone may begin recovery in order to get their health back on track after years of ignoring hunger cues and over-exercising. Another person’s “why” may be that they want to have children and model a healthy relationship with food and exercise for their kiddos. None of these “why’s” are more significant or meaningful than the other. They all do, however, serve the critical role of a purpose for recovery. During the long road of recovery, when slips come, the “why” orients you back on track toward recovery. It serves as a guide and a supportive companion on the journey through recovery from an eating disorder.
About the Author
Ashton is Renewed’s Outreach Coordinator. She is an alumna of Furman University where she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. Her passion for the study of eating disorders began in her undergraduate education where she researched eating disorders and witnessed disordered eating habits in the college environment. She currently attends graduate school at Vanderbilt University where she will earn her Master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling in May 2024. Ashton plans to pursue licensure as a professional counselor working with those recovering from eating disorders as well as co-occurring disorders.