What Is Emotional Anorexia and How to Treat It?

It’s hard to pinpoint a single cause for emotional anorexia, but there are some theories on why it happens. You might feel your partner doesn’t listen to you when you talk and choose not to communicate. You also might be dealing with something in your past that makes you feel insecure, leading to you pushing your partners away.

Self-starvation. Whether you call it anorexia or not, denying yourself the love and nourishment you desire can happen for various reasons. It doesn’t have to be a disease or disordered way of thinking that’s causing someone to isolate their heart from the world around them. Sometimes it’s just a self-made prison created by habitual patterns that are hard to break around food and relationships. Let’s take a deeper look at what causes emotional anorexia and how to recover from it.

What Is Emotional Anorexia?

Emotional anorexia is a form of self-starvation that occurs when you have an emotional need that you can’t meet. In this case, the feeling of not being loved or valued can make it impossible to take in love or value from others. In other words, it is a form of self-starvation that occurs when you deprive yourself of nourishment that only a loving relationship can give. It’s the feeling of emptiness created by your inability to receive love and nurturing from others.

How Do I Know If I’ve Emotional Anorexia?

You might have experienced emotional anorexia if:

  • You have trouble trusting other people and opening up to them about your emotions
  • You pretend that everything is fine when it isn’t — even when friends tell you that something is wrong
  • You avoid dating or relationships because you’re afraid of intimacy (being close to someone)
  • You feel like something is missing in your life. You’re not sure what it is, but you know it’s not there.
  • You feel disconnected from others and yourself. You cannot share your feelings with others or even understand them yourself.
  • You isolate yourself from other people and activities that might help you feel better about yourself or your life situation.
  • You have difficulty accepting compliments and praise because they make you feel insecure or embarrassed about being different than other people in some way.
  • You avoid asking for help when it would benefit you because you feel like a burden on others or fear rejection if they say no to your request for assistance in some way (e.g., “I don’t need any help!”).

What Are the Signs of Emotional Anorexia?

People with emotional anorexia have three main characteristics:

  • They avoid real intimacy with others. They often have trouble trusting others because they don’t want anyone to see them for who they are. They may find themselves in relationships with people who are very controlling or abusive because it makes them feel safe.
  • They are anxious about being seen as weak or vulnerable. They don’t want other people to know they have fears or worries about anything because those fears would be confirmed as accurate.
  • They’re constantly trying to prove their worthiness through achievement or perfectionism — but this never works because it’s impossible to do everything perfectly all the time!

What Causes Emotional Anorexia?

People traumatized by abuse, neglect, or abandonment often develop emotional anorexia to cope with their pain. They may also use it as a defense mechanism against further hurt or rejection by avoiding close relationships altogether.

The causes of emotional anorexia are more challenging to determine than physical symptoms. The condition is usually developed during childhood and stems from a variety of factors, including:

Childhood abuse. Children abused or neglected often develop a sense of worthlessness that can lead to emotional anorexia.

Related Read: How to Deal With Emotional Terrorists?

Negative self-image. If you don’t feel good about yourself, it’s easy to become obsessed with food. If you’re constantly comparing yourself to others, you may also be more likely to develop this problem.

Stressful life events. Emotional anorexia may also be triggered by significant stressors, like divorce or the death of someone close to you — especially if these events happened early on when you were still developing your sense of self-worth and identity.

Emotional anorexics don’t want to be seen as weak or incompetent. They believe their self-worth depends on being perfect at all times. Some people with emotional anorexia have low self-esteem and feel worthless when they’re not perfect. Others may try to achieve perfection because it gives them control over their lives when everything else seems out of control.

How to Recover From Emotional Anorexia?

Emotional anorexia is a severe problem that needs to be addressed as soon as possible. If you suspect that you know someone who might be suffering from emotional anorexia, here are some ways to get help:

  • Stop trying to control everything.
  • Get help from a professional therapist who can help you face your fears and heal your past wounds.
  • Face your anxiety head-on by going for walks or taking up a new hobby that makes you feel good about yourself (and challenges you).
  • Treat yourself with kindness by allowing yourself to eat when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full — even if you don’t want to stop! 
  • Find ways to express yourself without feeling ashamed or guilty: Write down your feelings in a journal or talk openly with someone who cares about you (like a friend, family member, or therapist).

How to Help Someone With Emotional Anorexia?

If you are dealing with someone who has emotional anorexia, there are several things you can do:

  • Don’t take it personally. The person may not have anything against you personally; they may use avoidance as a coping mechanism.
  • Don’t try to force them into situations they’re avoiding. This could increase their anxiety level even more, which will only make them want to avoid more situations in the future.
  • Try inviting them to activities that don’t involve other people (such as going on a walk or taking out the trash). This may help reduce some of their anxiety about being around other people.
  • Don’t comment on how much weight they’ve gained or lost — this might make them feel worse about themselves than they already do!

Final Thoughts

Each of us is quite capable of going on a rampage against all the things we hate or want to change or get rid of, but that doesn’t mean that any drastic change will necessarily make us happier. Everyone has demons, things that trigger negative emotions and remind them of bad events from their past. 

These emotions are never easy to shake, primarily because they relate to some of our deepest-seated insecurities and painful memories. And yet, sometimes, we must look at ourselves and decide if there is anything about these events or people that can help us heal. 

If there’s even a remote chance that something good can come out of them, it’s worth trying to embrace them honestly and objectively–and with as much compassion as possible. That may not be easy, but it could be necessary for someone who wants to move forward with renewed passion and vigor.

Hi, I am Happy. I'm a professional writer and psychology enthusiast. I love to read and write about human behaviors, the mind, mental health-related topics, and more.