Why I believe compulsive movement in eating disorders is as serious & needs to be treated as such as any other form of purging…
Somebody who purges through vomiting or laxatives to compensate or manage anxiety after eating is performing an action that is difficult for anyone to justify as non-disordered.
Those of us who purge through exercise or lower level movement to compensate for eating or to manage anxiety can easily hide the behaviour behind seemingly rational excuses… its ‘healthy to move’, good for mental health, it’s a nice day, the housework needs doing…
Compulsive movement as a compensatory behaviour is rarely picked up on or seen as essential to treatment in the same way vomiting or laxatives are.
Instead movement is seen as a good thing by so many: even encouraged – despite the fact we are doing it to compensate for eating, it is compulsive, mentally excruciating and for many of us an unhealthy way to manage anxiety.
As movement seems to calm us & people hate to see us anxious, the pacing we carry out in a ritualised way, the fact we cannot sit down until a certain time or the walks we cannot miss are not challenged. People accept it as our norm.
Would they I sometimes wonder, not challenge us if were carrying out self-induced vomiting in front of them or swallowing a pack of laxatives?
Some might think that this is not the same, not as serious but IT IS!
However we are compensating for eating, it is keeping strong neural pathways live in our brains with the belief that eating food needs to be compensated for.
We cannot learn new methods to manage anxiety when we are still using old disordered methods.
The movement might not be affecting our weight or weight gain if we are eating enough but it is still a very strong part of the illness and while it is still happening, recovery will not.
So, yes – I believe that exercise and lower level movement needs to be treated as seriously as purging through vomiting….
We do it for the same reasons, we need to address it in the same way!