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Counselling & Healing Arts

The Iceberg Metaphor for Eating Disorders

Oct 13, 2023
Kathleen Lafferty, BA, MCP, RCC

As a therapist who specializes in treating eating difficulties and eating disordered behaviour, I find it helpful to explain eating disorders through the iceberg metaphor.

Think of the top part of the iceberg as the behaviours that are visible (restricting, binge eating, over-exercising, purging, laxative and diet-pill use, obsessive thoughts and focus on controlling weight and shape).

Underneath the visible part of the iceberg, are the issues that lay below the surface. The things we cannot see – unmet emotional needs, childhood experiences, family dynamics, trauma, coping skills, emotional regulation, mental health issues (anxiety, depression, compulsive behaviour, etc), biology, cultural influence, societal messages…

To heal eating difficulties and eating disorders, we need to address these invisible issues that sit below the surface.


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