How Anorexia Affected My Personality (Introvert/Extrovert) 6


Anorexia affected my personality in many ways. Today I am going to focus on the introvert/extrovert aspect.

First off: I pass no judgement whatsoever on the values associated with introversion and extroversion, None whatsoever. This post is nothing to do with saying one is better than the other. Both are valuable … just different. What I think is rather more interesting is they way in which the illness pushed me from one end of the spectrum to the other.

 

Pre-Anorexia

 

Anyone who met me, knew me, would tell you I was an extrovert. I stayed out late partying. I was happiest in a group of friends. I never disliked solitude, but I didn’t need it in the way I started to after Anorexia onset. I remember how people used to energize me rather than drain me. I was the girl who could party night after night and be around people all the time.

I want to be clear that I see introversion and extroversion as an energy processing system more than I do a preference for being social or not. Extroverts seem to be energized by socializing with other people and de-energised by too much time alone. Introverts are drained by social situations (no matter how much they enjoy them) and energized by time alone.

As a child and a teen, I felt that social situations gave me energy.

 

Anorexia

 

Nothing happened overnight, but as I became more and more affected by the eating disorder I became more reclusive. To be clear, being reclusive is not the same as being an introvert, it was just a notable change. Mostly I stopped going out with friends because doing so usually involved eating or drinking — neither of which were things my eating disorder wanted me to do.

Additionally, my obsession with exercise meant that I was in the gym at 5am every morning. Getting up that early meant staying out late was harder. The exercise also expanded to the point that I was in the gym every hour of the day that I was not at university or working in my waitress job. After a while there was literally no time for friends. My eating disorder would not let me sit still, so it was not like I could go and meet a mate for coffee.

Life is pretty unsociable when one can’t sit down.

 

Introversion

 

While I can see that it was my eating disorder that overtook my life to the point that there was no longer any room for friends, that doesn’t totally explain my apparent introversion. You see, the thing was, I didn’t miss people. And also, being with people was beginning to have the opposite affect on me.

Before Anorexia, if I had a study week or for any reason didn’t see my mates, I would miss them. I would crave human interaction. After a couple of years with Anorexia I no longer craved people. In fact, I began to feel tired and drained after any social event that I did attend. That’s a more typical introvert trait. In fact for me the most important part of this is the way that other people effect one’s energy levels. Introverts tend to feel tried and energy drained after social interactions no matter how enjoyable said interactions are. Extroverts tend to be infused and energized by them. Sometimes I would actually feel like I was getting sick I would get so drained by being with people. Then, after I got home and sat alone for a while I would feel fine again.

Pre-anorexia my friends energized me. During-anorexia they de-energised me.

 

Recovery

 

Here’s something. In the latter stages of my four-year recovery (weight restored but still having to work hard at it) I went to a shrink for the first time because someone suggested I get accessed for Asperger’s. My assessment was positive for high-functioning autism as Asperger’s is now called. This was a time when I was still struggling a lot with social interactions.

I can see why I was given that diagnosis, despite the fact that I think it is incorrect. Well, incorrect now, maybe not incorrect for the time of diagnosis. I could not easily read other people’s emotions and feelings when I had Anorexia, I felt a huge distance between myself and most other people — a bit like being on a totally different operating system. I feel a huge distance between the me with anorexia and the me before and after anorexia. So much so that it has led me to really question the concept of personality.

 

Now

 

I’m not Asperger’s. I’m pretty confident that if tested now I would not be given that diagnosis. I am more extrovert than I was in recovery, and much more extrovert than I was when I was sick. I am not nearly as extrovert as I was pre-anorexia. (But I am also an old fart now).

If I don’t see my friends for a while I miss them like crazy. I miss people. It feels nice to miss people. I crave people, I am interested in people. I can look people in the eyes and feel something.

Like I mentioned, I question the concept of personality. I feel like I have the same personality as I did as a pre-anorexia person now — so there is certainly some consistency there. However, the mental illness Anorexia altered by personality. Of course, Anorexia is a brain-based disease, so when one thinks of it like that it seems obvious that it could affect my personality.

 

What about you?

I wonder if you noticed change in yourself if you suffered an eating disorder? If you did, and you have reached full recovery, have you returned to the way that you were pre-ED?

Or maybe you have a loved one or friend with an eatings disorder and you have noticed a change in them?

I would love to know what you think.

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About Tabitha Farrar

I work as Head of Marketing for a software startup in Boulder. As a recovered Anorexia sufferer, I advocate for proper understanding of eating disorders in my spare time. On that note, I wrote a book about my own journey into eating again called Love Fat.


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6 thoughts on “How Anorexia Affected My Personality (Introvert/Extrovert)

  • Rose

    I noticed a huge difference! When I was in the throws of anorexia, I didn’t interact with people at all. My only outings were to go to therapy and the doctor. Later in my recovery I took a college class, didn’t speak and had no friends. Now, much closer to fully recovered, I’m dating, have friends, and speak in class. I don’t avoid social interactions anymore but seek them out. My confidence in having simething valid to say is restored.

  • Andrea Stanciu

    I feel like I’m going through this problem everyday, kind of. At pre-anorexia I was such an extrovert and I HAD to be around people all the time! I was super funny, energetic, and silly, and that all went away whenever I had anorexia. I have had a difficult time a couple months before I became anorexic because my mother passed away, but I didn’t really change from that. Currently, I can’t really tell if I’m still in recovery or if I’m fully recovered, but I, and all of my other friends, think that I’be changed since then. It pops up in my head all the time ‘Why can’t you be funny like how you were before? What happened? Why can’t you also think of something funny like how she/he did? What happened to your imagination?’ I always ask myself, which I don’t know why. People say it’s because of maturity, but even if people are mature doesn’t mean that their imagination and humor is gone. I’m really confused about why this has happened and I don’t know if I just have to wait for a miracle to happen to me so that I can feel the amazing and social person I was before, because I really miss that.

  • Caroline Blaire

    Oh my is this TRUE Tabitha! I unfortunately had two daughter struggle with anorexia simutaneously. Pre-anorexia they’re personalities were very different from one another. While struggling their personalities were SO different than I knew each of them to be. While I was of course very concerned about the physical health, I worried I may never see my daughters again. By this I mean, see them be who they truly are. Nice article!

  • Marie Cassidy

    Hi Tabitha

    I have just acceptd that I have an ED and have started to try to recover. It took some fairly serious health reasons to make me admit this and now I am due to receive therapy but also I have been madlt researching online in order to help myself and when I came across your blog on feeling extra hungry even thugh I have stopped going to the gym and begun to introduce more carbs into my diet, I felt like crying because everything you said is what I am feeling.

    I then came across this introvert blog and it has brought some questions that I thought you may be able to help me with if at all possible? I know I have definitely become anti – social over the last couple of years when my ED has taken a strong grip of me. For example, I have always restricted my food during the week but on a Friday and Saturday night I would allow myself my ‘cheat evenings’ I would have some red wine and cheese and chocolate and REALLY enjoy it, 1) because I love those foods, and 2) because I knew come Sunday I would restrict again and I look sooooo forward to the fri/sat again for my food and wine. However, over the last year I have not wanted to go out and see friends or even date on either of those weekend nights because I have wanted to stay in with my food and wine. I have also not wanted my flatmate to be around (and will incessantly find ways to try and see if she will be out over the weekend) so that I can relax and eat my food and drink my red wine without fear of being judged. This is hard because it is only in the last year I have become like this ( I have had a restrictive food diet for 10 years or more) but this particular way of isolating myself on weekends especially, is a more recent development. Do you think this is related to my ED?

    Secondly, I am trying to recover now but it is taking time and I have not yet put weight on, despite eating slightly more and not gymming (although I have been doing the low impact exercise – walking, which is something I need to control now) but I still feel frustrated by people in general, I still don’t want to socialise, and I still want my weekends to myself to enjoy my food and wine in isolation….. Is it normal to still feel this way even though I am TRYING to get better? I feel like pulling my hair out over it all to be honest. I am so glad I discovered you online, I have started following you on twitter also and I intend to buy your book for my kindle.

    ANY HELP YOU CAN GIVE ME WOULD BE SO APPRECIATED.
    Thank you
    Marie.

    • Tabitha Farrar Post author

      Hi Marie

      I absolutely think that your tendency to isolate may be due to the ED. Time and recovery will tell!

      No matter how much you are already eating, if you are not gaining weight you need to eat more. Double it.