The “I don’t knows”

Eating disorder patients often have trouble describing their emotions. There is a name for this: "alexithymic."

From the F.E.A.S.T. Eating Disorders Glossary: Alexithymia

Alexithymia is a concept that defines the inability to identify or express emotion. Studies have shown that individuals in the acute stages of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa score significantly higher on alexithymia tests than those who have recovered. Source

It is one thing to recognize it, but responding to it is another matter entirely. I really like Grey Thinking's diagram here: The “I don’t knows”

Parents may want to print this out for reference!!


  1. I liked GT's post too. I was laughing sooo hard (out loud, by myself) at a couple of the interpretations of "I don't know" on her mind map - laughing because I identify. Some particularly hilarious (and true) ones were: I don't know = I wasn't actually paying attention and I have no idea what you just asked me. (LMAO) & I don't know = I'm going to sit here and wait for a better question. Oh em gee... hilarious.

    (There are other ones too that ring true to me that aren't as funny... because there're more painfully, sadly true - like "I'm too embarassed," and "Answering that is going to be incriminating.")

  2. I have had anorexia for six years and I have a really hard time expressing emotions outside of mealtime.

    The anorexia makes you feel numb inside. We may look like we can feel things because we get really emotional -anger, rage and crying during mealtime. But that's only because we are desperately trying to hold on to the feeling of emptiness.

    When you have anorexia your mind is
    trying really hard to avoid all the feelings that keeps you from feeling empty.

    That's also why hurt people around us-the ability to feel empathy is not all there. Most of us are people pleasers or the good kid. I know I fake being happy but I literally have to prep myself when I talk to my parents.

    For me recovery has been really hard because my hunger cues are gone so I have to follow a schedule. I also don't get cravings.

    I think that's also why we are obssessed with cooking channels. It so facinating watching them because I don't feel that way towards food. I should feel hungry. It should taste good. It shouldn't hurt.

    I am going through recovery and i'm starting to feel things again. It's so scary because they're not within my control.

    I guess that's why there always telling us to "fake it 'til you make it."

  3. Laura,

    Thanks for the link back! Your tie to alexithymia is very appropriate, as well.

  4. I have alexithymia in the extreme. I can only describe my emotions after the fact, when I look back and analyze them by my behavoir and my physical sensations. Like...I must have been upset yesterday, because I was distracted and shakey...but I didn't "feel" the emotion while it was happening. ...Or I translate the emotion into hunger, like many of us.

    I think it's facinating that when looked at closely, EDs are very similar person-to-person.

  5. I'd like to see the FEAST definition tweaked a bit, and say "who are recovered/in remission."

    I remember oh-so-well a chart of over 100 emotions. I couldn't say I was "fine" or "okay." I had to come up with something more descriptive and it was so hard at first because...I didn't know it would make sense to others that I could be hopeful but frustrated. Sad but happy. Now, that does make sense. I've developed the mantra "Feelings aren't right or wrong, but what you do with your emotions matters." There are healthy ways to deal with feelings, and not so healthy. I spent far too much of my life with the unhealthy--but in a way, it was a blessing because in some ways, I am now the best in my family at expressing my emotions--all the ranges of them--in a careful and calm way.

    Go figure. ;) I had emotion-training, I guess. And I can now sit with my sadness over something and know that it will pass, and embrace the sadness as a part of TRULY LIVING.

  6. Good point, Contrawit! I'll do that.

    I'm really learning a lot from these comments. I think we could learn a lot from this topic and from you all - really.


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