Relationship/attachment style is a predictor for vulnerability to disordered eating. Recognizing your attachment style can be a vital part of understanding what motives your disordered eating.
There are four basic relationship/attachment styles:
1) Securely attached adults are comfortable with intimacy. They tend to have positive views of themselves and others, and trust that closeness with another person can be a warm, positive, and mutually satisfying experience. They are less likely to develop eating disorders.
2) Anxious-Preoccupied adults find it difficult to trust that the person they love or care about will be consistently available. They dislike separation, fearing that “out of sight” leads to “out of mind” and they often seek reassurance that their partner is still there for them.
People who binge may be “hungry” for love but turn to food instead, unconsciously fearing they will never get enough or be satisfied in their relationships.
3) Dismissive-Avoidant adults are uncomfortable with closeness. They often prize independence, telling themselves and others that they don’t need anyone else to be happy.
Underlying this outward disinterest in relationships is the fear that intimacy will lead to rejection, pain or loss of self. On some level, the belief is that “if you don’t get too close, you won’t get hurt.” This relationship style is associated with anorexia.
The solution is to turn away from both people and food, restricting the intake of both food and love.
5) Fearful-avoidant adults simultaneously wish for closeness, yet fear intimacy. They yearn for someone who is usually unavailable, and ardently pursue that person. If the object of their affection returns their feelings, they lose interest, finding distance safer – until the pattern repeats.
This relationship style is associated with both bulimia and binge eating disorder in which bingeing is a symbolic way to fill up on food, an unconscious substitute for love, fulfillment, and needs.
Those who struggle with bulimia then get rid of the food as a means of symbolically purging their needs. In relationships, they allow closeness (binge), and then create distance (purge), as an expression of their conflict about trust.
Are you more comfortable with distance, or closeness?
What are your hopes and fears about intimacy?
Where did you learn to mistrust relationships?
How did your parents and others respond to your needs?
How do you respond to your own needs, wishes, and emotions?
Understanding what the conflict is, and how it came to be, is the first step to change. When you feel safe with closeness, you will be less likely to use disordered eating as a means to create distance.
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