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Distorted Perceptions

People suffering with an Eating Disorder often have a distorted perception of their body and personality. Also read the section on Negative Voices.

"What I Think of Me... I'm fat... I'm a horrible person... I must deserve this... It's my own fault... My problems don't matter... Others don't deserve an Eating Disorder, but I'm different..."

It is all too common for people living with Anorexia and Bulimia to have a mild to severe distorted perception of themselves. What is seen in the mirror isn't reality, and when they compare their physical or personality attributes to others they are extremely judgmental of themselves. A person suffering with Anorexia or Bulimia may see another person and think "I wish I could be as skinny as them" and in reality, may actually be thinner. They may wish to be as smart, as funny or as compassionate as another person that they are equally as good as -- the bottom line is that they cannot see their own good traits, especially in comparison to others, because of the low self-esteem they have of themselves.

A good example of a distorted perception is black and white thinking... Thinking that bad situations or feelings are the complete end of the world, and good situations or emotions are as bright as the sun. There is no stability or "normalized" thinking with a middle ground, but harsh swings from one extreme to another. Combined with this is irrational behavior that is not okay for others, but okay for the person suffering with the Eating Disorder. An example would be: "when I eat I am just a horrible awful person and deserve to die, but when I don't I am the best little girl in the world."

A lot of times, men and women suffering with an Eating Disorder unfairly personalize the actions around them. They may think that everything someone says or does in some way is a reflection of them. For example: If during a group conversation one individual walks away to go to the bathroom, the person suffering with the Eating Disorder may think "they left because I was acting stupid again." There is also the feeling that "everyone hates me," or only hangs around because they feel sorry for them, or are just being polite. Compliments are seen as polite gestures, but not truly compliments, and are often met with an invalidating remark about themselves. For example: someone compliments on a sufferers achievement and they reply, "no really, I'm so stupid. You should have seen how badly I screwed up last week..."

People suffering with Eating Disorders take on unfair burdens of control for the world around them. They may feel responsible to make the world a better place, to want to cure the ills of everyone, and when they can't, punish themselves with self-hate remarks and actions. There is often a strong need to control their own lives and the lives of people around them, and when they cannot, think it is unfair and take it out on themselves.

Self-blame can be another aspect... the sufferer may blame themself for everything bad that has ever happened to them, believing that in some way they deserved it; ie., "my parents abused me because I was a horrible kid." On the contrary, they may also blame others for everything and take no responsibility for their own lives. For example: "if you'd been there for me, I wouldn't have purged."

People living with Anorexia and Bulimia have a hard time being optimistic about any aspect of a situation or their lives. Everything seems negative in one way or another, or they only pick the negative to focus on. In comparison to others, someone else who achieves something is considered great, but the same achievement for themselves would be met with negativity and how it could have been done better. Though the world is not seen as perfect and others are not expected to act as such, the person suffering with the Eating Disorder may have high expectations of perfection for themselves.

Ultimately, one of the biggest perception distortions of the person with Anorexia or Bulimia is that "life will be better and I will be happy when I lose the weight." There is a false sense of control that is achieved during self-starvation/restriction, a feeling of comfort when binging, or a temporary release of emotions and guilt during purging... In reality none of the above has been achieved except within the sufferer's perception. There is no light at the end of the tunnel of an Eating Disorder, even though those who suffer may think there is. In reality, the only true light comes from recovery.

Also read: Perception Part II, Who Are "They"? and Negative Voices


:: IN ENGLISH :: EN ESPAÑOL :: EN FRANÇAIS ::

:: Mental Health :: Voices :: Perception ::
Mind & Body :: Symptoms :: Questionnaire ::
Misconceptions :: Diabetes :: Phobias ::
Genetics and Biology :: WWW.Warning ::

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