Your Feelings and emotions are adaptive responses based on growth and development. Emotions are important in all people, males and females. Feelings are expressed as emotions and are a part of subjective human functioning responses to feelings in various situations. Emotions are linked to pleasure or pain and have either positive or negative characteristics. Emotions are ways to effectuate coping. Basic emotions include fear, anger, happiness, and sadness. Over time, individuals develop an innate response to fear. Once a person has been exposed to a fearful situation, the image becomes fixed in the individual’s memory.
Repeated exposure to painful situations will cause a fear response in children, men, and women. Fear is felt inside the body in the form of anxiety, with the anxiety normally acting as a warning system in your body. With repeated exposure to the fearful situation, the individual will develop a form of a habituated coping response such as drinking alcohol, substance use, alcohol use, binging, purging, exercising, restriction of certain food groups, sex, and gambling. These coping responses are like reflexes in response to the fixed cues of anxiety and fear within the body calming the mind and body.
Anxiety is linked to emotional vulnerability. When anxiety is provoked in arousal situations; the arousal causes the individual to experience fear, leading to sensitivity to fear. After the arousal and fear response, anticipatory anxiety causes the individual to access “fixed beliefs” regarding the anxiety, which are harmful elicited fixed responses. The individual believes that the anxiety is harmful and develops a “lower order” ability to cope with the immediate distress, causing him or her to engage in eating disorders, substance abuse, self-harm, and dissociations to modulate the negative emotions. Fear is directly related to bodily responses. Dissociations are a way of disavowing painful memories and emotions or distancing the self from the emotions.
Often adults will deny any history of sexual abuse and or physical abuse to distance themselves from anxiety and emotions. The long-term core symptoms of sexual abuse include but are not limited to feelings of shame, low self-esteem, worthlessness, anxiety, guilt, hopelessness, and self-blame. Traumatic abuse can act as a psychological stressor that predisposes its victims to addictions.
A history of sexual and/or physical abuse is a psychological precursor to the development of an eating disorder, substance abuse, and dissociative disorders and increases the likelihood of developing depression related to avoidance of emotions. Abuse can severely affect an individual’s life, causing severe and long-term suffering.
The physical symptoms become emotional scars that are felt in the pelvis, thighs, rectum, penis, and vagina, with the abdominal area becoming the area of focus for sensations of tension and stress. As an example of avoiding negative feelings, individuals with eating disorders often become obsessed with making their abdomens concave or flat while displacing their painful emotions. The painful emotions are attributed to feelings of fatness, the pursuit of thinness, and the punishment of the body for failing. The act of losing weight becomes the focus of regaining control over their bodies to distract themselves from and often forget about the rape.
The emotions become attached to the fat stomach and an effort to lose weight. After a time, when anorexic patients start to gain weight due to pressure from families, friends, and treatment, individuals can learn to attach the feeling to food and purge the food to eliminate the negative feelings. The act of purging gives individuals a sense of control over their bodies in having accomplished something. The feelings from the trauma become displaced onto the food, where starvation or not being hungry, binging and purging, or simply binging becomes the problem that is associated with the original traumatic feelings.