This month we’re looking at denial, a big issue for people with all types of addictions, including food addiction and eating disorders.
Denial in relationships
Addicts often think their behavior is invisible to others. It’s like how little kids play peek-a-boo. They think that as soon as they cover their eyes, we can’t see them, either. Dogs will do the same thing – as soon as they turn away from you, they’ll try and get away with stuff they shouldn’t be doing because they think they’ve turned invisible.
There’s an expression that food addicts and those with eating disorders “wear” their disease. Whether it’s excess weight, dull eyes and complexion, swollen glands or a sad expression, there’s not much about the effects of an eating disorder that are hidden – especially to the people closest to them.
Food addicts and emotional eaters may also be in denial about how their addiction impacts the other people in their lives. These disorders affect everyone in the family. And that’s a sad fact to face.
Breaking through the denial
Overcoming denial is one of the first steps of recovery – sometimes people address it before they even make the call to come and see us. Yet breaking through denial is like peeling an onion.
For someone who’s always been a “good girl,” it can be shocking to realize that you’re lying about what you’re eating, how much you’re eating, or what you’re doing with food and exercise. Or maybe it’s something else – like shopping, over-spending, or people-pleasing.
While only the person with the problem can face the denial and make that breakthrough, there are some strategies that we use in therapy to help make that happen.
Motivational interviewing is a form of questioning that confronts the way someone is thinking, and provides evidence for a new way of thinking. For example, addicts can easily get caught up in “all or nothing” thinking. In that case, the therapist can point out options in the middle area, which the person may not even have considered.
Groups are an excellent way to pierce the denial, because you’ll hear other people say they have a problem. If you can relate to what they’ve shared, it may open your mind to acknowledging that you have the problem as well. You’ll also be able to support other people and witness as they get through their denial as well.
Is there something you’ve been denying to yourself or others? Is it time to break through?