Can’t Eat vs Won’t Eat

I’ve noticed that I tend to express my frustration with my own inability to will myself out of anorexia as an inability to eat:

“I just can’t eat.”

At the instigation of a trusted person, I’ve started to realize that, no, I actually can eat. The more correct statement is that I don’t want to eat:

“I won’t eat.”

I think that the difference is illuminating. I don’t think that it trivializes the fact that this is a serious sickness that requires professional treatment. Nor do I think that it makes anorexia a simple matter of lack of willpower. Instead, I think that it highlights the role of anxiety and fear deeply embedded in all eating disorders.

Whatever I am afraid of manifests itself when I eat. By not eating I am shielding myself from that anxiety and fear and pain. I obviously prefer the physical pain and weakness from being underweight to the pain of dealing with those emotions.

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