Eating Disorder Recovery Emotions Fear & Anxiety In Recovery Other ED Behaviours Rewiring / Neuroplasticity

A Hairdresser Trip Is A Big Deal With An Eating Disorder!

Today, I went to the hairdresser!

To anyone reading this who doesn’t have an eating disorder, you will be thinking, ‘what’s the big deal?’.

But I think a lot of you who have this illness will know why this is noteworthy.

How many of us with eating disorders put off or just don’t go to the hairdresser?

And why?
Well… this illness is a beast that impacts more than just what and how we eat!

During the years of illness, I’ve probably allowed myself a trip to the hairdresser at best once every six months.

There are a few reasons for this….

Firstly, with an eating disorder, we need routine and rigidity.

We have fixed & rigid times for eating, moving and doing just about EVERYTHING.

Something unusual, like a hairdresser appointment, throws our routine, creates feelings of chaos and anxiety and so it feels easier just to continue on in our ground hog days and the hair can wait.

Secondly, movement compulsions… For anyone with a movement compulsion (like myself) as part of their illness – being expected to sit for however long the appointment lasts, at a time that we might not usually, can feel like torture and the anxiety can grow stronger as every minute of the appointment ticks by!

Thirdly – money spending.

I’ve written about this before – with a restrictive eating disorder, we have brains that believe that we are living in a scarce environment and so everything (not just food) is in short supply.  Therefore, it will convince us money is scarce (even when it is not) and create feelings of guilt at spending any money… visiting a hairdresser included!

Fourthly… issues around appearance.

To be honest, when underweight and in the eating disorder, I was self conscious of my thin body and I didn’t like to draw attention to myself visually…  I didn’t want people to notice or comment on any part of my appearance – hair included.
But this time, I’m using this point to its advantage in hoping a new hairstyle will detract people from noticing and commenting on my growing body (that’s my plan anyway!!).

The fact that hairdressers are always surrounded by mirrors though can make spending time facing our reflection harder, if it something we usually avoid.

Finally… small talk!!

When you are in the hairdresser, small talk is a must (unless you have a silent cutter!).  All those questions of what you do, where are you going on holiday, do you have a spouse or children etc etc… These can be very hard to cope with when your life has been consumed by an eating disorder for so long that you are currently not working or you have not been able to go on holiday for years and you cannot cope with relationships…

So there are many reasons a hair appointment for those with an eating disorder can be a big deal and it is just one more thing to rewire and allow ourselves to do (with pleasure and pride) in recovery!

I now work as a coach and mentor, working with people who are overcoming eating disorders, disordered eating or low body confidence, enabling them to find freedom in body and mind to live a more full and happy life. If you are interested in knowing more about my coaching work, then please take a look at my coaching website:

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