Eating Disorders: How to Stop Listening To “Ana”
Q. I’m 20 yrs old. I’ve been suffering from depression for 7 yrs & an eating disorder for 4. I’ve been hospitalised for depression 6 times & 4 times for my eating disorder. At the moment I’m a healthy weight but feel so fat and disgusting. My depression has been pretty bad now that I’m not controlling my food habits as much but I’ve got no one to talk to so I find myself crawling back to the unhealthy eating behaviours. ‘Ana’ attracts me, she tells me that when I make it to 89lbs, everything will be perfect. I will finally be carefree & happy. I believe her. Now that I’m a healthy weight, I don’t want to be seen, I just want to hide away until I get thin again..I hate myself so much. Recovery is impossible. I don’t know how ‘normal’ people cope, I wish I never turned to an eating disorder. I used to self-harm a lot but since my eating disorder, it’s settled down a bit. I don’t know how else to cope..=( I work part time but I’ve been struggling a lot with normal day to day activities. I feel exhausted all the time. Recently, at work I’ve been collapsing because of it. I don’t know where to go from here, I wish I could just disappear…='( I’ve been on all different anti-depressants but none of them seem to work, I feel they’re just placebos because a mental illness is in your mind. At the moment, I’m on 150mg of Effexor. Is there any hope for me?
A. There is hope for you but you need to make a conscious decision and effort to get psychological help immediately. Thus far, according to your letter, you’ve primarily only tried medications. As I have written on many occasions regarding most psychological disorders, medication is only one aspect of treatment. You need more than medicine to help you overcome this very serious disorder. You need intensive treatment that involves talk therapy with a very skilled clinician, preferably with someone who specializes in eating disorders. If you continue to “starve yourself” and lose more weight, you may need to be hospitalized.
Please also realize that “Ana” is not real. “Ana” is a voice in your mind that you are choosing to listen to. Your focus on “Ana” gives this voice control and power over you. The reality is that your life will not be perfect when you reach 89 pounds. In fact, if you do reach 89 pounds, depending upon your height, you may have done serious harm to your health. Reject the voice in your mind that you have named “Ana.” Continuing to listen to this voice will only lead you in the wrong direction and may possibly lead to your death. I realize that mentioning the fact that this eating disorder may lead to your death may seem blunt or harsh but it is the absolute truth. By listening to “Ana” you are risking your life.
Eating disorders usually have nothing to do with achieving the “correct weight.” No amount of weight loss will ever make you happy. These disorders have more to do with control. People with eating disorders commonly say they feel that their lives are out of control. Those who suffer from an eating disorder often comment that being able to manage their food intake (or lack thereof) is the only time that he or she feels that they have control over their lives. Unfortunately, the micromanagement of food offers a false sense of control.
It is important for you to connect with a therapist or a psychiatrist who has experience helping people with eating disorders. You said that you have no one to talk to. You also said that you do not know what it is like to be normal and you’re on the verge of becoming extremely physically ill. You are already collapsing at work. You’re in need of immediate assistance. Do not try to continue to fight this eating disorder alone. Get help now.
Please also know that there is help and hope for you. It may take time for you to heal but with good help and continued effort on your part, you can learn to work through your eating disorder. Please seek help immediately.
Randle, K. (2008). Eating Disorders: How to Stop Listening To “Ana”. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 30, 2016, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/07/28/eating-disorders-how-to-stop-listening-to-ana/