What are the negative thoughts and feelings that bring clients to therapy in the first place?
Whether you are struggling with an eating disorder, feel guilt around food, or have negative body image, many of the thoughts and beliefs clients have are often similar when starting therapy.
When walking in my virtual office, many folks struggle with the vulnerability of their own negative thoughts and emotions. When it comes to mental health, there is a pretty big stigma. This blog post will talk about the different types of thoughts I see and how vulnerability can help everyone feel less alone!
Negative Thoughts and Emotions in Therapy
We all have that inner critic that tells us we are not okay. This often leads to shame. Shame is defined as an emotion that tells us, you did something against your values, therefore, you are bad. The thing is, that inner critic is often not listening to our true values. These negative thoughts can sound like, "nobody will like you if you are in a larger body" or "you will never be loved if you weight xxx". These negative thoughts and emotions lead us to do things that do not follow our values, in order to try to get our need met of being loved and care for (which we all need and want).
So many folks also fear what others are thinking and how they are being judged around their body. Whether that potential judgement is stemming from "they don't care about their body" or "they care about their body too much", the mind does not fall short of making up stories about the outside world and how they view our body. Here are a few examples other negative thoughts and emotions that can arise in therapy:
Fear of Weight Gain:
No matter someone's body size, a fear of gaining weight is extremely common among those that I work with. Folks may obsessively worry about gaining weight, which can drive restrictive eating or excessive exercise. This leads us to the next fear.
Fear of Losing Control
If we do not feel in control of our behaviors, then what does that mean about us? Our society emphasizes a need to be in control of everything, or else. Eating disorders often stem from a desire for control of one's body, by trying to gain control of eating habits and body weight. However, often time the eating disorder ends up taking over and they are action the one driving the ship, but more of that in later blog posts.
The negative thoughts and emotions coming from within.
We all have that inner critic that tells us we are not okay. This often leads to shame. Shame is defined as an emotion that tells us, you did something against your values, therefore, you are bad. The thing is, that inner critic is often not listening to our true values. These negative thoughts can sound like, "nobody will like you if you are in a larger body" or "you will never be loved if you weigh xxx". These negative thoughts and emotions lead us to do things that do not follow our values, in order to try to get our needs met of being loved and care for (which we all need and want).
Shame and Guilt
Individuals that come looking for support are often experiencing an overwhelming amount of shame and guilt surrounding their relationship with food and their body. When we label a food as "bad", and then we eat that food, we feel we are then bad. This is an example of shame. Guilt stems from feeling we did something "wrong", even if we do not label ourselves as a "bad" individual. An example of this may look like labeling a food as "unhealthy" and then feeling guilt because they are not supposed to eat "unhealthy" foods. These emotions often lead to isolation and depression, further exacerbating the feeling of loneliness that often comes with an eating disorder.
Depression and Isolation
As I stated above, when we feel shame and guilt, we isolate. When we feel stigma against our weight or size, we isolate. When we feel anxiety around a lack of control, we isolate. The emotional toll of an eating disorder leads to deep-seated feelings of depression. There are often overwhelming feelings of hopelessness as the eating disorder gains more and more control. Isolation, helps us feel perhaps, less guilt, but ultimately increases the shame, leading to further isolation and depression.
Negative thoughts and emotions begin spiraling.
At the end of the day, these are only a few of the negative thoughts and emotions that are commonly seen in my virtual therapy office. As you work through healing your relationship with food and your body, you will work to identify your own negative thoughts and emotions and how they aline with the person you ultimately want to be, because eating disorders are not just about the food. They are a manifestation of deep emotional distress.