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Emily Page Lockamy MA, LPCA

Eating Disorders

6 Reasons Writing Can Promote Eating Disorder Recovery

How writing can help individuals struggling with an eating disorder.

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“Writing offers a powerful avenue towards finding out what one thinks, feels, knows, understands, remembers.” —Gillie Bolton

As National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) Week comes to a close, it's important to continue spreading awareness about eating disorders and effective therapy approaches to treat them.

Therapeutic writing is one such approach that's been shown by current research to be a powerful coping skill, boosting positive feelings and reducing depressive symptoms, rumination, and anxiety — feelings that often underlie and fuel eating disorders.

Writing is a self-reflective tool that can help individuals access and take ownership of not only their challenges, but also their strengths, needs, and desires (Bolton, 2006).

Here are 6 ways that therapeutic writing can promote healing, growth, and recovery in eating disorder treatment:

1. Therapeutic writing can encourage psychology flexibility and enable individuals struggling with eating disorders to overcome the "shoulds" or "should nots" that keep them locked in maladaptive behaviors.

2. The simultaneous distance and depth that the act of writing creates can facilitate the development of greater insight, clarity, and compassion, for self and others, as well as more emotional regulation.

3. Therapeutic writing provides a container for the chaos of strong feelings, decreasing the need for rigidity and rules, which eating disorders thrive on.

4. Writing within a psychotherapy group can promote a sense of connection and empowerment, reducing the eating disorder’s usefulness as a tool for dealing with trust and dependency issues.

5. Writing can help clients find, or recover, their inner voice, so that they can begin to discern their truth and let it speak louder than their disordered thoughts.

6. Writing is a medium that can help people speak the unspeakable and accept the unacceptable, especially as it pertains to parts of themselves that they have disowned. Writing can lead to more effective integration of these different parts of self and of difficult experiences, which helps facilitate the emergence of acceptance, meaning, and inner peace, improving emotional well-being and important relationships.

“Writing will help you unravel the knots in your heart.” –Louise DeSalvo

Stay tuned for future posts on specific therapeutic writing techniques.


Bolton, G., Field, V. & Thompson, K. (Eds.). (2006). Writing works: A resource handbook for therapeutic writing workshops and activities. London, GBR and Philadelphia, PA: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

DeSalvo, L. (1999). Writing as a way of healing. San Francisco: Harper.

Levenkron, Steven. (2013). Anatomy of anorexia. W. W. Norton & Company

Pennebaker, J.W. & Evans, J.F. (2014). Expressive writing: Words that heal. Enumclaw, WA: Idyll Arbor, Inc.


About the Author

Emily Page Lockamy, MA, LPCA is a freelance writer and therapist practicing at Chrysalis Center for Counseling in Wilmington, North Carolina.