Undergoing an abortion is a big thing. There is a period of physical recovery that you have probably received information and instructions about from your provider. In additional to the physical effects, however, it is not unusual to experience emotional or psychological side effects. You may or may not have been prepared for that. Unfortunately, the emotional side effects can be just as real, and have even more impact on your life, than the physical.
For some women, their strongest post-abortion emotional response is a sense of relief that it’s all over with. Sometimes, a woman – even one who didn’t anticipate any other feelings about it – discovers that the entire experience doesn’t just go away like she thought it would. Emotional responses will be different from one individual to another. They may be short-term, or last a long time. They can range from mild regret to something more critical, including serious depression and any of its manifestations.
One of these manifestations may be eating disorders after abortion. The best known of these are binge eating, bulimia (vomiting or use of laxatives after binge eating to get rid of the excess calories), or anorexia (obsessive dieting or exercising to avoid weight gain).
How can any of these be a post-abortive emotional response? Some sources suggest it may be an attempt to become fat or thin to avoid being a person of sexual interest. In this way they can prevent becoming pregnant again and facing another pregnancy decision. An individual may feel that eating is something they can regulate when it seems life is beyond their control.
Psychologist Dr. Theresa Burke writes about this in her book, Forbidden Grief – The Unspoken Pain of Abortion:
“Unexpressed emotions are key issues in the treatment of eating disorders. Because women with eating disorders are overwhelmingly concerned with image and pleasing others, they often deny and repress their real feelings. This is accomplished by binding their emotions and anxieties up in ritual behaviors. Their eating disorders are a battle over food, which is really a surrogate enemy, a symbol of negative feelings like grief, tension, anger, frustration, boredom, and fear. In this sense, an eating disorder can serve to distract a person from other problems that he or she cannot confront. I knew it was quite reasonable to suspect that abortion trauma could be disguised through eating disorders. As [my client] later explained:
I am never hungry when I binge . . . I eat because I am full. Full of anger, hurt, sadness, and loneliness. I throw up because that is the way I empty myself of those feelings. Getting in touch with such feelings is fundamental to recovery.”
An eating disorder may indicate that an individual is wrestling with significant life issues which may have been prompted by grief and regret after an abortion. Perhaps this person is you. Perhaps it is a friend or family member who is experiencing this after her abortion. In any case, this person may need help in navigating this type of experience. That is why we are here at Restore.
Restore helps those for whom the lingering effects of abortion continue to cause pain. We provide free confidential care and support services to all individuals after abortion experiences. Restore After Abortion serves DuPage County, Illinois and surrounding communities. If eating disorders after abortion are troubling you or someone you care about, please call today for a free, confidential consultation.
Elliott Institute. (2011). Abortion Risks: A List of Major Psychological Complications Related to Abortion. Retrieved from http://afterabortion.org/2011/abortion-risks-a-list-of-major-psychological-complications-related-to-abortion/
American Pregnancy Association. (September 2016). Abortion Emotional Side Effects. Retrieved from: http://americanpregnancy.org/unplanned-pregnancy/abortion-emotional-effects/
Ramah International. (2017). Abortion PTSD. Retrieved from: https://ramahinternational.org/abortion-ptsd/
Forbidden Grief – The Unspoken Pain of Abortion by Theresa Burke and David C. Reardon. (June 2002).Acorn Books, Springfield, Illinois. Retrieved from: https://www.rachelsvineyard.org/PDF/FG/FG-Introduction.pdf