Social Anxiety & Eating Disorders

Social Anxiety & Eating Disorders

Many individuals with eating disorders experience significant anxiety. There is a strong correlation between individuals who have pre-existing anxiety and/or depression to develop eating disorders. 

Individuals with eating disorders often report that their anxiety generally centers on fear of humiliation when in public or social situations.  They fear being judged in both body shape and size and for how and what they eat. Often, shame and self-criticism that eating disorder sufferers typically feel with respect to their own body, is projected on to other people who they infuse with the power to hurt them or make them not feel safe or valued.

Patients also feel the need to accommodate other people’s feelings at the expense of their own, not feeling that they fit in, not being able to assert their point of view, essentially not feeling comfortable in their own skin when in the company of other people.  Some patients report that these feelings and interpersonal issues are significantly reduced or disappear in the safe world and solitude with food. 

Exploring how anxiety can be focused around interpersonal and relational issues in addition to a general state of free floating (likely, biologically driven) anxiety can be extremely useful in understanding a person and assessing outcomes.

It is important for health care practitioners to help patients distinguish from where their anxiety originates and then how to treat it – what is driving the anxiety bus – free floating, indiscriminate anxiety or specifically targeted to interpersonal or psychological forces. 

If you’re someone who has some concerns regarding anxiety and eating disorders, discuss them with your provider to evaluate your symptoms and/or to get the help you need.