Ritual Abuse Issues and Eating Disorders

New Book! Jade Miller’s “Attachment and Dissociation: A Survivor’s Analysis” in e-book form. About intergenerational dysfunctional attachment and Jade’s healing process. (Jade is the author of “Dear Little Ones.”)  http://www.amazon.com/Attachment-Dissociation-Survivors-Jade-Miller-ebook/dp/B01DPX76YQ/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1460054531&sr=1-3&keywords=jade+miller

The eating disorders series started on 4/10, 2016 (Eating disorders and genetics,) and continued on 4/20, 2-16 (Over-eating.) The issues discussed in this section apply to anorexia and bulimia as well as over-eating.

Hard as these conditions are for people who were not abused as children, they are far harder for those of us who had to live through ritual abuse. Genetic factors and social pressure, of course, apply to all in our society.

Parents can set their kids up for eating disorders in lots of different ways. Many parents equate food with love, and since they love their kids, they over-feed them or give them candy and other goodies to make their children feel appreciated. Some cult parents act this way because they love as well as abuse their kids; others because they were raised this way and they continue the tradition without thinking. In any event, these children often grow up turning to childhood comfort foods whenever they are hurting. Which, if you are a ritual abuse survivor, is pretty much all the time.

Abusers also use food as a punishment or torture. Children can be deprived of food for a long time and then made to eat (even force-fed) rich foods, which will make them very sick. Most Satanic cults drink the blood or eat the bodies of sacrifices and often make children eat things which were never meant to be eaten, like excrement. They can also be starved for days because it is easier to program a child who is food-deprived and sleep-deprived.

Many adult survivors buy large amount of food or hoard food in reaction to having been deprived as children. Others are afraid of many foods, especially those that are unfamiliar or that remind them, consciously or unconsciously, of “bad” foods used in rituals, in training, or as torture.

It makes total sense that ritual abuse survivors often cannot eat meat, for example, and may even have trouble seeing others eat meat. Remember, though, that the opposite can occur, and some survivors will eat raw meat. This is a form of “acting out” – re-enacting a part of the repressed ritual, probably in an effort to trigger the memory and gain more information about the past. It’s not uncommon to swing between the two extremes, acting out and total avoidance. Being drawn to food can be the basis for over-eating and being repelled by food can be the basis for anorexia.

Then there is the issue of alters. Different alters may have very different attitudes, beliefs, and needs around food. If one alter wants to stop eating in an effort to disappear entirely and another alter wants to gain more and more weight in an effort to become sexually unattractive there is going to be chaos inside and out. And if one of those alters is out most of the time, the other will be seething in the background trying to figure out how to sabotage the alter in control.

Some therapists do not know a great deal about dissociation. They may believe that the eating disorder must be under control before dealing with the DID. That means that no communication between alters is established and no agreements are made inside before working on the eating disorder. This can easily lead to a battle for control between the survivor and the therapist and between the survivor’s inside people.

Even if therapists are familiar with working with alters, they may be frightened by the severity of the eating disorder, get flustered, and make mistakes. Or they may be working in a setting where they cannot make all their own decisions or where others higher up do not believe in RA, MC, or DID. There are all sorts of problems that can arise in therapy that have nothing to do with the client but which have great impact.

(There is another issue which I almost forgot because it is my issue. Survivors are often prescribed meds which cause weight gain which is very difficult to take off. I had eighty extra pounds thanks to various antidepressants. (With much effort, I have lost sixty of those pounds – hooray!) I can assure you that the meds did not increase my appetite because of the speed with which I gained weight. They wrecked havoc on my metabolism. This doesn’t belong in this post because it isn’t really an eating disorder but I thought I would mention it anyway.)

Next will be a discussion of anorexia and bulimia and then on ways of dealing with the external –  the actual eating disorder – and the internal – the relationships between alters who experienced the parts of the abuse that led to the eating disorder. As always, I could use all the help I can get, so if you have ideas, please be generous and leave a comment.

Eating Disorders: Over-Eating

New Book! Jade Miller’s “Attachment and Dissociation: A Survivor’s Analysis” in e-book form. About intergenerational dysfunctional attachment and Jade’s healing process. (Jade is the author of “Dear Little Ones.”)  http://www.amazon.com/Attachment-Dissociation-Survivors-Jade-Miller-ebook/dp/B01DPX76YQ/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1460054531&sr=1-3&keywords=jade+miller

In my mind, I should be writing about anorexia at the beginning of the series on eating disorders and over-eating at the end, but I am arranging it according to the way my interest is flowing.

The other day, I was waiting for my mechanic to tell me where the oil was coming from (good news: he found out where the leak is – more good news: it can be fixed – bad news: it will be expensive – even more good news: I don’t have to fix it until next year.) I picked up the January 2016 issue of the Scientific American and found an article called “That Craving for Dessert” by Ferris Jabr. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-sugar-and-fat-trick-the-brain-into-wanting-more-food/ (The title has been changed, but the article itself is the same.)

And then, just today, I came across an article by David Ludwig, Professor of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health called “Are All Calories Equal?” harvardmagazine.com/2016/05/are-all-calories-equal. Ludwig points out that excess insulin causes weight gain and insufficient insulin causes weight loss. Refined sugars and processed carbohydrates make insulin levels spike, causing more calories to be stored in fat cells and fewer in the blood. And low blood sugar makes the brain think that the body is hungry and the process repeats itself.

The other article is a bit more complicated, but I feel it is worth trying to follow the chemistry.

Until fairly recently, it was assumed that all hunger came from a need to keep the body in equilibrium. When we burn more calories than we eat, we get hungry and when we are below our normal body weight, we get hungry. When we eat enough calories to equal the calories expended, we stop eating. So calories in = calories out.

This is the way it works. When the stomach is empty, it sends out ghrelin, which tells the brain that the body should feel hungry and seek out food. When the stomach is full, it sends out hormones that tell the hypothalamus, where the control center is, to stop the feelings of hunger. When there are an excess of calories, they get stored in fat cells for a time they may be needed. As the fat cells expand, they send out the hormone leptin, which tells the brain to reduce appetite and rev up the metabolism. It’s a really nice mechanism to keep everything in equilibrium.

But that doesn’t seem to be the whole story. There is another process going on at the same time: eating for pleasure, regardless of hunger. There is a part of the brain called the reward center, which releases dopamine and creates an intense feeling of pleasure. Sweet and fatty foods (along with cocaine and cigarettes and lots of other addictive things) are triggers that activate the reward system. The brain learned thousands of years ago that some foods were calorie-dense and that gorging on them when they were available could ward off starvation later on, when people were living on the edge of starvation. Having a reward center that encouraged eating these foods was a survival mechanism.

These days sweet and fatty foods are plentiful. They remain pleasurable, but if eaten often enough, the brain adapts by shutting down some of the dopamine receptors. Then larger quantities of calorie-dense food are required to give the same feelings of pleasure. It’s the same as a heroin addict “chasing the high” –  taking more and more of the drug in an effort to regain the initial rush.

There is an off-switch to pleasure-eating. Ghrelin (the hunger hormone) increases the level of dopamine and leptin (the satiation hormone) and insulin decrease it. This way, the first few bites of something yummy are pleasurable, but as the pleasure fades, the brain says, “Okay, that’s enough for now.”

The problem is that, as the amount of fatty tissue increases, the brain stops responding to leptin and the off-switch no longer works. So the more fat there is, the more the hormones tell us to eat. Not fair.

There is another problem — there always is, it seems. The reward center can be activated by seeing a sugary, fatty food, or talking about it, or even seeing a photo of it. This is the source of the cravings that we know all too well. But how do we avoid seeing those addictive foods, when they are in every supermarket,  every fast food restaurant, every fancy restaurant, every coffee shop? It is so easy to make money off of addictions!

I need to write a section specific to multiples and ritual abuse survivors. And I need to write a section on how to handle this horrible, complicated problem.

Use the comments section to share what has and hasn’t helped you and we will go from there.

Eating Disorders

New Book! Jade Miller’s “Attachment and Dissociation: A Survivor’s Analysis” in e-book form. About intergenerational dysfunctional attachments and Jade’s healing process. (Jade is the author of “Dear Little Ones.”)  http://www.amazon.com/Attachment-Dissociation-Survivors-Jade-Miller-ebook/dp/B01DPX76YQ/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1460054531&sr=1-3&keywords=jade+miller


Now for eating disorders. This is a huge subject and I will break it up with posts on a couple of other topics. (Like, say, Mothers’ Day, which doesn’t bother me a bit. Yeah.) Think of this post as the introduction; there is nothing about alters, ritual abuse, or healing in this section, so be patient. And there won’t be lots of statistics in the other sections.

I was at the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD) conference the beginning of April this year and went to two very good workshops on eating disorders. One was “The Body Remembers: The Brain Reacts: Clinical Applications of Current Research on the Underlying Connections between Eating Disorders and Trauma” by Norman H. Kim, National Director of the Center for Change and Director of Reasons Eating Disorder Center. The other was “Trauma, Dissociation, and Eating Disorders: When No Body is Home” by Debbie Cohen, who is on the Faculty of ISSTD. Much of the material in this post comes from those workshops.

Let’s start with some definitions. Anorexia is limiting the intake of food to the point of significantly low body weight, along with the fear of becoming fat and the distortion of body image to seem heavier than one is in actuality. Bulimia is the periodic out-of-control eating of large amounts of food followed by attempts to prevent weight gain by vomiting, using laxatives, or excessive exercising. Anorexia can be followed by periods of binge eating, or bulimia may occur alone. Binge Eating Disorder is the periodic out-of-control eating of large amounts of food, but without attempts to prevent weight gain. It is accompanied by shame, embarrassment, and attempts to hide episodes from other people. Steadily eating large amounts of food isn’t currently labelled an eating disorder, even though it probably should be.

There are a lot of misconceptions about eating disorders. A big one is that they are caused by society and the media, with all the hype about weight, dieting, and the desirability of thinness. The emphasis on weight makes people dissatisfied with their bodies: 42% of girls in first to third grades want to be thinner; 81% of ten-year-old girls are afraid of being fat; and half of ten-year-old girls have dieted. But the rate of eating disorders has not changed. We are more miserable and pour billions of dollars into the diet industry but the prevalence of eating disorders has not changed.

Another misconception is that it’s an illness of rich white girls. However, that’s who gets studied and therefore that’s who gets the attention. The rates are the same for Afro-American and Latina girls.

Men, too, suffer from eating disorders. Of all people with eating disorders, about 25% of anorexics  and 36% of bulimics are male. http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/research-males-and-eating-disorders Men tend to get overlooked because eating disorders, like depression, are seen as a women’s problem. There now are some in-patient and out-patient treatment programs specifically for men and hopefully there will be more resources in the future.

Family and twin studies suggest a genetic component to anorexia and bulimia. Anorexia is seen in 0.3% to 0.7% and bulimia in 1.7% to 2.5% of women in the general population. Yet they are 7 to 12 times more likely in relatives of those with eating disorders, even if relatives do not share a common environment. Twin studies show that genetic factors seem to “kick in” at adolescence and that there seems to be something in the environment that triggers the onset of eating disorders. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3010958/

So if you have an eating disorder, and lots of your blood relatives do, too, it may be genetic. Not your fault, just plain bad luck. Of course, if it wasn’t genetic, it still wouldn’t be your fault.

Eating disorders, especially anorexia, are very, very serious. In females 15 – 24 years old, the mortality rate from eating disorders is 12 times higher than the mortality rates from all other causes of death combined. And, if you have an eating disorder, it is reported that your chances of dying from this illness at some point in your life range from 5% to 20%, depending on the study.

The environmental trigger typically seems to be a trauma, such as sexual abuse or bullying. A study described in “Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimic Disorders: Current Perspectives,” edited by G.I. Szmukler, P. D. Slade, and P. Harris, pp. 357-61 showed that almost two-thirds of women patients who entered a London eating disorders clinic between 1982 and 1984 reported sexual trauma in childhood or adolescence. This did not, of course, include anybody who had amnesia for the abuse.

One last bit of information: there have been two surveys (that I know of) looking at the prevalence of eating disorders in survivors of ritual abuse and other forms of extreme childhood trauma. Both were self-reporting and open to any survivor who wished to participate. One was conducted by Survivorship and the other by the Extreme Abuse Survey. 60% to 65% percent of survivors said that they had an eating disorder, while less than 20% reported that they were alcoholic and/or drug-addicted.

I’d like to end this post by pointing out that eating disorders are hard to treat, the effects of sexual abuse are hard to treat, and the two together are even harder to treat. Or to live with, for that matter!!! Add in amnesia, dissociation, ritual abuse, and/or mind control … well, nobody said it was going to be easy.