Anxiety Avoidance

Although I'll probably never be in danger from giving myself bruises from all the pats on the back that I give myself, I do have to admit that I've come a long way in the past 9 months. But there's still a long way to go. I've pushed through the ED junk enough that I can function reasonably well in every day life. I can go out to restaurants and, though I don't look forward to it, I don't have panic attacks, either. I can manage my exercise urges. I eat what's on my meal plan with basically no anxiety.

And yet anxiety is what's holding me back from going further.

Let me explain. I don't really have any "fear foods" or any foods that cause more than a slight uptick in anxiety. There are, however, foods that I don't eat very often because they were associated with being "bad" foods. It's sort of like avoiding those foods has become a habit. Thou shalt not order cream sauces. Things like that. I know I can work cream sauce into my mealplan, and I don't fear I will turn into the Goodyear Blimp if I do eat cream sauce. I just don't consider eating cream sauce because that's just not what I do.

So taking the leap and eating cream sauces (I was picky about creamy things long before the ED, after I got ill after eating something with Alfredo sauce in early high school, and the association makes me gag a bit, but some are okay) would cause me anxiety, not because it's cream sauce but because it's different. And I am so sick of being anxious all the time that I avoid pushing myself and trying the cream sauce. I avoid breaking free from the rules and regulations of my meal plan. I don't fear instantly turning into the Fat-o-saurus Rex like I used to, I just fear the change.

An ex-therapist always told me "Anxiety won't kill you."
I raised an eyebrow. Wanna bet?

I break non-breakable combs. Don't tell me that anxiety is supposed to be non-lethal because with the combination of my luck and Murphy's Law, anxiety will kill me. Tell the comb-now-in-two-pieces that it's not breakable. Exactly.

I suppose this is the point at which many bloggers will quote FDR and say that we have nothing to fear but fear itself. Which I suppose is true, but it seems a little trite. I tell myself anxiety is just unpleasant and it will pass. But when? And will I go insane in the meantime?

I've adjusted to life without the constant nail-gnawing anxiety (though there are exceptions; see, for example, today) and the thought of having to face it again is overwhelming. I can function. There's nothing wrong with me--see? ::twirls around so everyone can have a good look::

The point is not so I can function in my fairly limited life right now. I'm a freelance writer. My stresses are minimal. I can (and frequently do) work in my pajamas. Not that my life is one easy freaking barrel of laughs, but stress-wise, its much less demanding than in the past. I don't have to deal with lunches with clients or a dinner party at work. And in this context, I am just fine, recovery-wise.

But when things aren't as nice and cut and dry as they are now...
When they aren't easy...
When I do have to deal with (and eat with) other people...
When I don't get to be the total control-freak that I am...

That's when the difference is going to be made clear. I know I'm not like other people in terms of food. I need to have certain items just because. I could eat different things if I had to, but I'd really prefer MY stuff in MY brands and MY flavors. I don't like random changes in plans, especially (especially!) when it involves eating. If I planned on leftovers and someone invites me to dinner, I'm going to decline and eat leftovers--not because eating out is scary or threatening, but because it's not what I had planned.

This gets in the way of living a normal, fulfilling life. I don't ever expect that I will turn into a spur-of-the-moment person, nor do I really want to. But I have to start approaching this anxiety about change a little closer than the distance currently dictated by my ten foot pole.


Cathy (UK) said...

Your posts are always interesting Carrie, but I find this one especially interesting - because I have recently been trying decipher, with the help of my psychiatrist, which of my food (and many other) anxieties are a remnant of my long history of anorexia nervosa, and which are related to my ASD/Asperger's.

I had eating rituals, food phobias and associated emetophobia for many years before I became anorexic; actually as soon as I was weaned. As a 6-8 yr old I would avoid white foods, because I thought that if I ate them I would vomit. I also had (and have) many sensory sensitivies - to certain food tastes/smells, to certain food textures - and I cannot eat hot food. Currently I have OCD fears around food contamination. None of this has anything whatsoever to do with controlling my weight. It is not anorexia nervosa. I don't have much of an appetite and never have had.

When I was being treated for anorexia nervosa, the assumptions made by others was that ALL my food anxieties were related to fear of weight gain. That simply wasn't the case. Clinicians and dieticians endeavoured to 'correct' my eating patterns, make me eat faster etc., and it caused me great distress because of sensory and compulsive issues associated with my ASD and NOT my anorexia nervosa.

As for other anxieties: I have a lot of social anxiety and get overwhelmed if I spend a lot of time with other people and are forced into other people's routines. I could only work with major adjustments to prevent my anxiety from overwhelming me.

I know that you, and many others with histories of anorexia nervosa do not have an ASD. Anorexia nervosa is not autism. However, research has shown that certain ASD traits (as well as childhood anxiety and OCD) are associated with an increased risk of developing an ED, and increased difficulty with recovery from that ED.

Everyone has a few ASD/OCD traits, and many people have phobias, anxiety issues etc. The problem is that when we develop an ED, professionals can wrongly assume that all of our 'issues' are symptomatic of the ED and that full recovery means that we should become 'normal'.

What is normal for me IS to be ritualistic, obessive, compulsive, anxious and detail orientated. That is due to the inherent structure of my brain and these are fixed traits which I have had to learn to manage, through behaviours and adaptations to my lifestyle. Provided these traits don't lead me to develop dangerous eating and exercise behaviours then I learn to accept some of my quirks as just 'being me'.

Amy said...

Can anxiety really not kill you? I wonder/worry about that sometimes when mine gets bad and the adrenaline is just pouring endlessly throughout my system. I mean, I have an English degree, so I know jack, but, like, that can't be good, right?

Abby said...

This is right up my alley, as once again, I could have written this myself. It has never been about weight gain with me, but rather anxiety about changes in routine, anxiety over "unclean" foods that weren't part of that routine and just plain anxiety in general that drives me to literally try and run away from "feeling" and control those things I can (food, exercise, etc.).

As you mentioned, even if I was planning on something "not necessarily healthy" for supper, an invitation from a friend to go get a light salad or something (extreme example) would be turned down, due to the fact that I already planned/looked forward to what I was going to have. Do not disrupt the routine, as then I will have to find a way to deal with that anxiety, and as of now, I am still searching for that healthy alternative.

I'm told to "sit with it" and it will go away, and rationally I know that, but what if I don't want to be uncomfortable? When I want to go exercise, it's like this itch that just has to be scratched, and I don't want to sit with it.

What if this is just a part of who I am and how I'm meant to be? As you can tell, I am struggling with living both a "real" life (job, etc.) and working on recovery, as I feel like I can't do both at the same time. I can't deal with "real" life and the anxiety it causes without resorting to exercise, food routines, etc. to manage it.

While I know that weight restoration will help ease some of these anxieties, I also know that I have always been quite Type A. Yet I wonder where this anxiety comes one is putting pressure on me other than myself. There is no "plan" I am forced to follow, other than my own. I guess I have to try and "sit" with the anxiety of the unknown and realize it won't kill me unless I give it the power to?

Sorry for the ramble. Obviously something I am dealing with myself.

Anonymous said...

wow i can relate to that s much. there are many things i COULD d and i know i wt blimp up nor will i die from anxiety hwever i avoid them simply because i dont want to deal with the stress response. random changes in my routine and social encouters always put me on edge!

Kim said...

Great post. Most of my food anxiety is related to changing things up too. I'm not sure I have fear foods, but I have tons of anxiety about food that is not within my control (restaurants, dinner parties, any social gathering actually). This, of course, does limit my life. I do like my routines, and I like my food to be known and predictable. I don't really notice that exposure therapy works for me too much. I still tend to feel the same amount of anxiety in "unknown" food situations. It's one of my bigger struggles.

Anonymous said...

I had anxiety before, but I got a lot better now, thanks to I HIGHLY recommend ordering from them, they have a section on their website for anxiety pills and the best part there is no prescription required!!!

Post a Comment

Newer Post Older Post Home

ED Bites on Facebook!

ED Bites is on Twitter!

Search ED Bites

About Me

My photo
I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

Drop me a line!

Have any questions or comments about this blog? Feel free to email me at

nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote


Popular Posts


Recent Comments