Ways captivated by the voice of A/B and A&D

In order to captivate its victims anorexia/bulimia and substance misuse must offer them something invaluable.Young women can become convinced that it is through the use of disordered eating practices or substance misuse that they will achieve what they are searching for. It is the young women’s search for this ‘something’ that the problems use to their advantage. As people get farther down the path with substance misuse and disordered eating practices, these problems have more and more say as the young women begin to live by the rules that the problems stipulate. Their life soon begins to center on attaining alcohol and drugs and/or food/ thinness at all costs. For example, ‘dieting’ takes on a whole new shape when it becomes the focus of everyday life, when anorexia/bulimia determines and decides when a young woman gets to eat, what she can eat, what she can not eat and how she will be punished if she does not follow anorexia/bulimia's rules.

Guilt & Shame

The problems also use tactics of shame and embarrassment to further entrench and isolate people. As Beth describes, "You can’t talk about it with anybody else because you’re so embarrassed and ashamed.

Anorexia/Bulimia and alcohol and drugs can cause shame, which serves to keep them silent about disordered eating practices and substance misuse's presence. They also are skilled at turning the tables and convincing people that they have done many things to feel shameful or guilty about. This shame and embarrassment is a double-edged sword as the problems can use this experience to their advantage, promising to take away the discomforting feelings. They act as ‘saviours’ while trying to keep obscure how they 'create' and re-write history in a way that others wrongs are theirs to own, that they don't have anything to complain about, that other people are way worse off than them, and that they somehow deserved or caused what happened to them.

So what did the problems need to take advantage of in order to become a part of your life in the way that it did?

A: My confidence. My worth.


The paradox of substance misuse and anorexia/bulimia is that these problems create and cause misery in peoples lives, yet they also offer promises of escape and freedom from the misery, which they are responsible for in the first place. People are then further ensnared in the web of disordered eating practices and substance misuse by promises of pain relief just beyond their reach. Alcohol and drugs and anorexia/bulimia bear promises of what life could be like with their assistance. These may be promises of friends, popularity, self-improvement, thinness, escape, freedom, a way to cope, or happiness. However, the cost of these promises is often much higher than anyone would have imagined or bargained for.

Rachel explains how the problems became a part of her life.

C: So what did it need to take advantage of to become part of your life in the way it did?

A: You needed to believe those lies.

C: Okay. How did it convince you of those lies? How did it get you to believe them?

A: I don't know. When you're so submerged in that kind of life and all your friends and everyone is like—it didn't really have anything to do with the fact that everyone else is doing it, you are just so submerged in it that you believe it without questioning anymore.


Hannah describes the promises of disordered eating practices and alcohol and drugs in the following way:

C: What did drugs and alcohol and disordered eating practices need to do or need to convince you of, in order to become part of your life in such a big way.

A: To make it better, it promises you these good things, things that you can’t see.


So the promises are often far off, but the promise to ‘make it better’ is often captivating enough to take a risk and see if substance misuse and disordered eating practices can offer what they say they will. She continues,

C: Were there any other promises that eating disorders made?

A: That I would be pretty.

C: Pretty.

A: Um-hmm. And happy. Happy with myself, like more self-confidence.

C: Were these the same promises that drugs and alcohol offered?

A: No.

C: What promises did drugs and alcohol offer you?

A: Only good ones, like nothing negative. Fun, like anything good. It would make my life so much fun, I can stop when I want to, it will be cool, and I'll look cool in people's eyes.


Beth continues along the same lines:

A: Just like, well, if you do this you'll feel better. It's not how will it make you feel worse. It’s how this will make you feel better. You're not thinking about anything else.

C: So if you do this you’ll feel better that’s one of the promises?

A: Yeah. I’ll make you thinner, I’ll make you forget, kind of thing, right. You'll feel better about yourself.