Many adolescents and adults in treatment for an ED share that their symptoms serve a purpose, that of control. Control of what though? Their body? Their environment? Their lives? What I have experienced as an ED Therapist is that ED symptoms serve to control, numb, or even suppress the experience of uncomfortable emotion, whether it was fear, sadness, anger, shame, or all of the above. Therefore, a therapy focused on behavioural symptoms was necessary, but is not always sufficient.
In some cases, young people “recover” from an ED only to then develop other mental health disorders, including problems with substances. The ED symptoms have resolved but the emotional processing deficits fueling the illness persists and were often expressed in other ways. Therapy and recovery has a more profound success when focused both on behavioural symptoms and emotional processing allowing individuals to address the root causes and ultimately make a full recovery .