Feeling Your Emotions Matters in Eating Disorder Recovery

December 27, 2017 Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer

Feeling your emotions is an important part of eating disorder recovery. If you avoid feeling your emotions, here are some ways to ease out of emotion avoidance.

Feeling your emotions in eating disorder recovery can be unsettling at first. Eating disorders strive to brush uncomfortable emotions aside—to ignore the tension and medicate the suffering—but deep-rooted anger, insecurity, fear, grief, loneliness, rejection or similar emotions must be named and felt in order to achieve sustainable eating disorder recovery. Instead of masking the pain with harmful behaviors, it's crucial to acknowledge, identify, express and feel your emotions. This practice of tuning into your own emotionality creates space for self-awareness, compassion, acceptance and, ultimately, healing.

Why Feeling Your Emotions Is Important

In a culture dominated by outward performance and success, it often seems wasteful—even absurd—to slow down and make time for introspection. While acting tough, resilient and composed tends to be the preferred social norm, humans just need to break sometimes, to explore their wounds, frailties, traumas, doubts or heartaches with curiosity instead of judgment. This leads to emotional maturity because feeling your emotions, permitting them to surface, teaches you to funnel them into constructive outlets rather than squelch them with destructive patterns like restricting food intake, over-exercising and binging-purging.

Under the influence of my eating disorder, movement becomes my opiate of choice—the more intense and rigorous, the more difficult to resist. In this state, I am literally running from my own emotions, using physical momentum to avoid confronting the uneasiness inside. But ticking off miles on the treadmill or straining muscles in the weight room can't ease the tightness of my chest. Once the dumbbells are lowered, that familiar anxiety returns.

So then I'm faced with an ultimatum—continue seeking a temporary high to narcotize and numb, or feel those emotions I've been running from and honor the beautiful brokenness of my inner self. The first option is my knee-jerk reaction, but it's given me a jaded perception on this whole business of "being alive."

The second option—while foreign and frightening—allows me to breathe in the moment, pause the activity, silence the urges and experience whatever is at the core of my restlessness. I stop fixating on just the body. I connect with my heart and soul. This can be an agonizing process, but the more I listen to emotions, the more I learn about myself which is a foundational piece to eating disorder recovery.

How to Practice Feeling Your Emotions Again

Here are three tips to learn how to connect with your feelings. Watch.

Perhaps you know this conflict of emotional disengagement firsthand—the impulse to retreat behind an eating disorder when your feelings become too messy. It's a strong temptation, but it does not offer wholeness, growth or healing. It fractures your sense of humanity. But the invitation to feel your emotions again is a standing offer, and once you start to access that range of emotions within, the eating disorder just might lose its crushing foothold on your life.

APA Reference
Schurrer, M. (2017, December 27). Feeling Your Emotions Matters in Eating Disorder Recovery, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 21 from

Author: Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer

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