What is the connection between stress and eating disorders?

In recent years, stress and its effects on our body and mind have become one of the main reasons for consulting doctors and psychologists. If we add some type of eating disorder to this stress, the impact on a person’s health is even greater..

Stress usually leads to impulsive behaviors, therefore, for people with an eating disorder, stressors in the environment and in society can cause symptoms to worsen as this results in more severe dietary restrictions or an increase in binge eating and purgative behaviors. .

How Does Stress Affect Eating Disorders?

To better understand how stress affects the development of eating disorders, we need to know how stress generally affects our bodies. In stressful situations, our body releases high levels of cortisol into the bloodstream.

This hormone, known as the stress hormone, triggers a series of reactions such as increased respiratory rate and elevated heart rate, Among many others. When these cortisol levels remain chronic, a large number of alterations in the body can appear such as problems sleeping and disturbances in the digestive, cardiovascular and immune systems.

    Causes of eating disorders

    In the case of people with a certain type of eating disorder, high levels of stress are usually caused by both social and environmental factors, including the pressure that society puts on ideals or canons. of a perfect person.

    In addition, emotional factors such as feelings of guilt and shame that the person feels about their own body or image promote and reinforce the development of these states of ongoing stress and tension.

    However, all is not negative when it comes to stress. Stress doesn’t always have to be related to negative feelings of anxiety and distress. If people are able to learn and internalize effective stress coping mechanisms, such as relaxation responses, it is possible to channel this energy into fuel for our motivation for action and sharing.

    With the right tools and techniques, healthy stress levels can be harnessed as a motivating force. In the specific cases of people with an eating disorder, with the right help, stress can be the driving force that gives these people enough power and motivation to find an alternative to their impulses with food. .

    This driving or motivating energy can be used to find a way to come to terms with food and one’s own body, also finding activities that are enjoyable and that help them feel at peace in themselves.

    Stress management and reduction techniques

    However, the ability to turn stress into motivation and positive energy doesn’t magically appear. There are many techniques that, consistently and tenaciously implemented, can help a person with an eating disorder relieve and lessen the effects of stress on their body and mind.

    Then we present a series of very useful recommendations for managing stress and its consequences.

    1. Muscle relaxation techniques

    Thanks to muscle relaxation techniques, the person becomes aware of the condition of his muscles and is therefore able to relax them.. When our muscles are relaxed, signals are sent to our brain to decrease the state of tension it is in, making it easier to lower stress levels.

    At the beginning, the person must voluntarily tighten the various muscle groups of the body and then release the tension of these. This exercise involves limbs directly to the muscles of the face.

    2. Muscle massage

    Pursue physical relaxation techniques, muscle massage therapy for tense muscle areas causes a relaxing response which helps reduce stress and relieves pain caused by physical tension accumulated throughout the day.

    Performing a massage in areas such as the neck, back and shoulders gives us a moment of relaxation and releases stress that is not beneficial. Although these massages can be performed by yourself, it is advisable to go to a specialist to minimize possible damage and enjoy this moment of relaxation even more.

    3. Activities such as yoga or tai chi

    Practicing relaxing physical activities like yoga or tai chi will help, in addition to being in good shape, to develop a large number of body awareness techniques that improve self-acceptance.

    Thanks to yoga, it is possible to focus the mind and body, performing all kinds of movements that provide strength and balance. Numerous studies have found that this type of activity promotes self-acceptance and the development of a positive self-concept. Which is particularly useful in eating disorders.

    Outraged, other activities such as reading or listening to music help us distract and calm us down, Provide a productive outlet for the energy we have left at the end of the day.

    4. Meditation exercises

    There are countless meditation techniques that can be very helpful in developing full attention to eating habits and thoughts around the body and about food.

    Mindfulness exercises, breathing meditation, and body exploration meditation are some of the most useful techniques. Which generate states of relaxation and encourage self-acceptance.

    5. Relationship with others

    When we are stressed, it is particularly useful to seek contact with other people. Relationships with friends, family, and people we care about make us feel so much better. Sharing your concerns or problems with people you trust humanizes our experiences and helps us release tensions

    6. Connect with nature

    Take part in outdoor activities and walks, breathe in the fresh air, and let the sun increase our vitamin D levels.This will help us rebuild our thoughts and release tension and stress.

    By constantly practicing these relaxing techniques and activities, the person with an eating disorder will find a way out of their feelings of stress and anxiety. This will encourage the development of willpower and, with the help of a medical professional or psychologist, will aid in the process of reconciliation with your own body.

    Bibliographical references:

    • Calvo Sagardoy, Rosa (2002) Anorexia and Bulimia: A Guide for Parents, Educators, and Therapists. Barcelona: practical planet.
    • Esteve, ML (2004) Anthropology of the body. Gender, bodily routes, identity and change, Barcelona, ​​Edicions Bellaterra.
    • Foundation for image and self-esteem. “Basic Guide to the Prevention and Detection of Eating Disorders for Educators”.
    • Toro and Vilardell, I. (1987) Anorexia nervosa. Fulla, Barcelona.

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