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If you suffer from an eating disorder now or have in the past, please email Joanna for a free telephone consultation.



Eating Disorder Recovery
Joanna Poppink, MFT
Eating Disorder Recovery Psychotherapist
serving Arizona, California, Florida, Oregon and Utah.
All appointments are virtual.


An EDR reader wrote that in her anorexic phase she is afraid to sleep because in sleep she won't burn off enough calories.  In her bulimic phase she eats to pass out.  In other words, she never gets normal good, deep, restorative rest.

The sleep and sleep deprivation issue are important to explore and understand in working toward eating disorder recovery.
In the reader's post she describes how her anorexic and bulimic phases bring up different psychological motivations and behaviors.

Eating Disorders alter your consciousness. Sleep deprivation also alters your consciousness.  Your thinking mind concentrates on weight and burning calories. But there is meaning behind those symbols.

Yes, you can be "scared to sleep."  You might call it anxiety or feel you are having an anxiety attack lying in bed.
When a person gradually drifts off to healthy relaxing sleep she experiences a transition between sleep and waking. In that transition she is vulnerable.  She is not in control.

If you carry fears in your psyche, whatever disturbing experiences from the past or present that are yet unresolved, will bubble up in this vulnerable time.  You will be afraid. If you have an eating disorder, you block the self knowledge that recognizes the source of your fears.  Your thoughts go to food, weight, desirability, self criticism and your need to act out your eating disorder.

In your anorexic phase you try to avoid sleep in an attempt to skip these fearful feelings entirely.   In your bulimic phase you try to pass out (and thus avoid that transitional drifting off and vulnerable phase.)

Eating disorders in one way are simple.  They exist to protect you from self knowledge and awareness of your genuine experience.  What makes the eating disorder complex is the fact that you are complex.  You are a human being with all the physical, emotional, cognitive and spiritual needs of a human being.  When the normal healthy balance of your being is disrupted by an eating disorder, all aspects of your humanity fall into disarray or even chaos.

Sleep deprivation is a way to alter your consciousness as thoroughly as starvation or bingeing. All three add to the intensity of your eating disorder.
Perhaps one way to begin your recovery is to focus on restorative sleep. If you are already in recovery, addressing your sleep patterns might be important for you now.

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