A few days ago, a dear friend of mine suggested that I read the book "Gaining: The Truth About Life After Eating Disorders" written by Aimee Liu. No more than an hour later I had downloaded it to my Ipad and haven't been able to put it down since.
In the second chapter Liu refers to a study done in 2001 at Boston University suggesting, "People with anorexia and bulimia, they found, tend to fall into three distinct - and mostly lifelong - temperamental groups, all marked by high anxiety."
According to this study, the first group is called the over-controlled group which,
"Includes most restricting anorexics and a majority of bulimics. They "feel like they have nothing inside." They avoid social contact; tightly control their appetites for food and for sex; limit their pleasures; and withdraw from excitement, sensation, and risk."
The second group is a group called the perfectionistic group and includes,
"Most bulimics and minority of restricting anorexics. These are the conscientious "good girls" who aim to please, excel, and conform. They worry about the details but are often so fearful of making a mistake that they can't get their work in on time. They read an arched eyebrow as contempt, a frown as a stiletto through the heart. They are intensely self critical."
The third and final group is called the under-controlled group which,
"Is split about evenly between bulimics and anorexics who binge and purge. Their emotions are intense, their behaviors are impulsive, they tend to fly into rages instead of expressing their anger passively or turning it inward, and they desperately seek relationships to soothe themselves. Like human metronomes, this group might start a diet because their boyfriends tease them, succumb to a billboard's temptation by stealing a Big Mac, then purge after seeing a magazine article about how much Mary-Kate Olsen weighs."
After re-reading this section of the chapter, I stopped and tried to put myself into one of these categories. The problem was, however, I could see a little bit of myself in each of these groups; my social anxiety falls into the over-controlled group, the "good girl" persona, need to excel, conform, and fear of making mistakes in my life put in the perfectionistic group, and I eventually felt a need to escape my "goodie-two-shoes" ways, which resulted in alcohol abuse and put me in the under-controlled group.
The study from Boston University discussed in this chapter, also suggests that people who do not have eating disorders rarely fit these personality categories; while those with eating disorders almost always fall into one or more of them. To me, this just proves that eating disorders are not strictly about food and weight loss, like some people often believe. Eating disorders dig much deeper and unfortunately, these personality traits are biologically a part of who we are.
As this chapter came to an end, I put my Ipad down and began to think about my eating disorder in a different light; maybe it is not my fault. Maybe certain people are just born with certain anxiety related personality traits that cause them to be more prone to developing an eating disorder. Maybe I can stop placing false blame on myself for being weak and inadequate. Just like some people are born with laziness or lack of organization, I was born with perfectionist tendencies and issues with control.
I might not necessarily like these personality traits of mine, but recognizing them will only help me learn to deal with them differently. Instead of being an all-or-nothing personality type, slowly, I can learn to see shades of grey.
Today, thanks to my new knowledge and this awesome book (thanks Lia!), I will breathe a little easier knowing this eating disorder is not 100% my fault.