I briefly explained what an ED trigger is the other day, but today I want to go more in depth. Triggers can be anything from a word, a situation, a person, a feeling, or even a thought, and they have the power of sending someone who is fully recovered, into a full blown relapse. This is why they're getting their own post.
Let's say someone has Asthma. You blow smoke in their face, and wham, asthma attack. The smoke is the trigger and the asthma attack is the result. Changing gears, let's say someone has anxiety about speaking in large crowds. They have to give a presentation, and have an anxiety attack. The presentation is the trigger, and the anxiety attack is the result. Is this making sense?
I'm thinking you have a better understanding of what a trigger is now, so now let's talk about some common ones. Probably the biggest trigger for someone with an eating disorder, is food. Sounds silly right? Well it's not. One of the reasons it's so hard for people to get over eating disorders, is because food is essential, and something you have to deal with multiple times a day, everyday, for life. That's like blowing smoke in an athsmatics face 3 times a day for life.
So let's think logically for a minute, since we know food itself is a trigger. Here's another common trigger:
Holidays. Holidays usually involve lots and lots and lots of food. Thanksgiving anyone? I know holidays are really difficult for me, and there's no way I'm alone on that. So. Much. Food. For people who restrict, it's like shoving food in their face. And for people who binge, it's like an invitation to binge (and then purge). Oh happy times, right?
Now, add on the fact that holidays can bring on other triggers. What if someone's trigger is their family, and they are going to be around their family for a week because of the holidays. Or what if someones trigger is feeling lonely because they don't have any family. Are you seeing where I'm going? Triggers can be very dynamic.
Another common trigger is stress. I've said this before, but many/most eating disorders revolve around control. Even if the person doesn't realize it. No, that doesn't mean that person is controlling; what I mean is that maybe the person is really stressed out, or they have a lot going on, or they are in an unfortunate circumstance, or whatever. Food is something that person has control over, and they can focus on that. It's a coping mechanism.
For example, they can't control/change the fact that they are going to have an exam in all of their classes on the same day, or that their boss is a jerk and won't give them a break, or whatever it may be... but they can choose to not eat and focus on that feeling, or they can eat and then purge and focus on that. It's up to them.
While at the time we don't usually think of eating disorders as a struggle for control in our lives (I don't), it usually is.
Food/Holidays, and Stress/Control are two of the biggest triggers that most people (including the people with the eating disorder) don't think about right away. But trust me when I say there are many other triggers. I can think of at least 7 of mine off the top of my head. Even just talking about my ED can be triggering.
If you know someone with an eating disorder, and they are comfortable enough talking about it, I encourage you to ask them to share some of their triggers with you, so you can avoid those topics/areas/actions, and also recognize when that person may need extra support. And if you have an eating disorder, I really encourage you to start thinking about what some of your triggers are, so you are more aware and can help others to be more aware.
As always, feel free to share your own stories down below, or anonymously here. Are there any ED topics you think I should talk about? Let me know! No promises, but I'll work my way there.