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How My Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder Turned Into an Eating Disorder

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My story is extremely different from the stereotypes of people who starve themselves.

I don’t have any body image problems, which how many eating disorders initially start. While I control my weight — the primary symptom, according to Mayo Clinic — I don’t really care about the number on the scale.

So, if I don’t have self-esteem issues about my physical appearance, then how in the world did I find myself here? As a counseling major, I constantly communicate with people who have either been through an eating disorder or who are going through an eating disorder. I know all the symptoms; I know how it destroys lives; I know how it has caused deaths and destruction. Although I know only negative consequences come from these disorders, I still developed one.

You’re a coward, my mind said. And then I did what I would with any client: I dug deeper. I asked myself, “What is going on in my head?” It was then that I realized I felt like I lost control of my life. I have five jobs, play in wind ensemble, edit for the student magazine and have a puppy to take care of. Basically, I have my hands full — and I’m enjoying it. However, I can’t actually enjoy that joy because I’m so busy worrying about all the things that go wrong each day.

Words of affirmation is my love language. So, when I don’t receive encouragement or some sort of verbal support, I panic. I wonder what in the world is wrong with me. I lose sight of what drives me and dive deep into a pit of despair.

I feel unlovable and rejected when my supervisor doesn’t notice that I spent three hours blistering my hands and killing my feet as I scrubbed the floor at the coffee shop. I feel silly when I make mistakes and people don’t offer moral support. I feel invisible when I share my book with people and they don’t even care. It often feels like I don’t exist, even though I do everything with the utmost excellence. I become angry when my coworkers receive praise for the little things they do, and I never even receive a simple “thank you.” My hard work often remains unnoticed, and I wonder how in the world I’m never good enough for other people.

I even feel so ashamed for my feelings. I should have control over them since I’ve taken classes about helping people through their problems. However, I don’t. My emotions often control me to the point that I can’t even concentrate on anything. To the point where I feel so much that I don’t feel anything anymore. HealthyPlace states this is actually typical for people with OCPD (obsessive-compulsive personality disorder) because they become uncomfortable in situations where they don’t have control. I actually recall telling my previous therapists that I feel so powerless and depressed when I work so hard and can’t control others’ perceptions of myself. It seems like no matter how much I try to make them like me, how much extra work I do, they never learn to even appreciate me as a person.

How does this connect to obsessive-compulsive personality disorder? One of the common diagnostic factors is the need to control everything. Basically, I think if I can will it, then it is possible. So, when something different than expected occurs, I flip out. I overanalyze every painstaking detail of the situation and wonder, how did I not prevent this? How did my plan fail? Why can’t I make things any better? Why is my life falling apart?

Second, OCPD often interferes with relationships because they think other people can’t tolerate their flaws. While this may be true for a couple people in a person’s life, the majority actually don’t really care too much. However, for people like me, we just can’t believe that. We believe that if we can’t tolerate our own mistakes and incompetence, then other people surely can’t. My head tells me that I should know better, and my heart says, I just want affirmation. I just want someone to say, “You’re valuable.”

In addition, OCPD often results in extreme perfectionism in regards to oneself as a person. This desire for affirmation often comes from that need for order in life. Therefore, relationships can die a painful death when someone from OCPD doesn’t feel affirmed. They’ll often door-slam people (similar to INFJs) when they realize that someone won’t encourage them, or they’ll start hating their job because their coworkers and boss don’t appreciate them. And then they spend the rest of the day in self-hatred and social-avoidance.

OCPD is also commonly comorbid with eating disorders — whether that comes from an obsession with weight or, in my case, the need to shed shame and other negative feelings. Although exercise is healthy, I work out to the point of exhaustion; to the point where it harms my body and doesn’t help it. Plus, overexercise just exacerbates the consequences of my choice to avoid food.

Clearly, I know how my OCPD and eating disorder affect me and about their negative consequences. However, I can’t bring myself out of it quite yet because I feel like I’ve lost control of both my life and my entire person. Even so, I’m hoping that I will get through this at some point and that other people can benefit from this story I share.

Photo by Remy_Loz on Unsplash

Originally published: July 9, 2019
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