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the voice inside your head

Voices and eating disorders

It is sometimes said that living with an eating disorder is like having a voice (or several voices) inside one’s head. This voice can be loud when the sufferer has done something “bad” (like binging) and can only be quieted by purging, fasting, over-exercising or self-harming.

The voice can also be called the “negative mind” of an individual. It exists to prolong their eating disorder and justify their behavior. It may start off fairly quietly, perhaps saying to the person things like, “If you don’t eat breakfast, I won’t make you do 200 sit-ups tonight”. However, as the eating disorder progresses, the voice often becomes more and more aggressive, e.g. “You’re nothing but a bitch, you’d better go throw up or you’ll get even fatter than you already are”.

The concept of an eating disorder as a friend

Because the voice is frequently present, it can become like a friend to the sufferer. The negative voice, although destructive, is a constant in the person’s life and there seems to be no danger that it will leave them. An eating disorder provides the sufferer with a means of control in their life. The prospect of giving up that control is often very frightening.
An eating disorder can quickly become a way of life, to the point where the sufferer relies on it on a day-to-day basis. Since the eating disorder is always there for them (regardless of whether that is a “good” or “bad” thing), the sufferer is usually reluctant to give it up and the negative voice, although destructive, is a comforting presence.

Is it psychosis?

Although the concept of voices and eating disorders sounds like a form of psychosis, it really has more in common with Confirmed Negativity Condition, a term coined by Peggy Claude-Pierre. The voices are not hallucinations and the sufferer does not typically believe they are literally hearing things. Rather, the voices represent a negative pattern of thoughts, designed to prolong the eating disorder and encourage self-destructive behaviors.

Confirmed Negativity Condition