Tracking Emotions to Treat Eating Disorders

by

One of the most important things to discover in treating eating disorders, as well as many other treatment programs, is tracking how emotions affect our behaviors.

For every thought we have, we experience an emotion. In response to emotions, we act in a particular way or perform a behavior. As such, our maladaptive, or ineffective, behaviors don’t just “pop up” out of nowhere. They occur because we felt some type of way, and we are responding to that emotion.

While this is sometimes useful (for example, feeling sad and crying, or seeing someone cry and asking them if they need a hug), this process can also become troublesome when our emotions are based on distorted thoughts.

Tracking our emotions is extremely helpful when treating eating disorders because we can see what types of thoughts and emotions affect our disordered eating patterns. When we find consistent patterns, we have the ability to insert learned skills that will help us reduce the urge for certain behaviors. Eventually, once the urges or frequency of behaviors are reduced, we can work to reframe our thoughts and, in turn, experience emotions that are based in reality.

While food, and our eating habits, can feel like the enemy, there is more to it. In higher levels of care, the focus of eating disorder treatment is weight restoration and stabilization of body functioning to maintain life. However, as people drop down to lower levels of care, we can begin to focus on what drives the disordered eating. We can truly begin to do this by not only tracking our food and our eating disorder symptoms, but also the emotions that accompany these things.

Here are some links to begin tracking today:

— Erin Clark Diehl, MA-DMT, LPC, Therapist