What is the ABCDE Tool? How to Distance Oneself from Eating Disorder Rules

What is the ABCDE Tool?: How to Distance Oneself from Eating Disorder Rules

In terms of eating disorder treatment and recovery methods there is an abundance of different approaches and therapies believed to be beneficial for the patient.

Within such approaches exist a wide variety of helpful skills and practical tools which may provide both essential insight into how the eating disorder cycle may be interrupted and suitable exit or coping strategies designed to move the sufferer further on in their recovery and/or maintain levels of progress.

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The ABCDE is treatment method for eating disorder – image by abcnews.go.com

Key areas to be addressed in this article are now listed below.

  • What is the ABCDE tool?
  • How to change the antecedents
  • How to change the behaviours
  • How to Change the consequences

What is the ABCDE Tool?

The ABCDE Tool is an approach or theory used within the framework of psychology which is often used to enable an individual suffering from a mental health problem such as depression on an eating disorder to change their negative patterns of behaviour.

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Depression on an eating disorder – image by sandracohenphd.com

In this method when applied to eating disorders, the “A” stands for antecedents which may be both perceived and actual and involve emotional triggers (feelings of inadequacy, sadness, despair) as well as thinking triggers (unhelpful thoughts applied to food/weight).

“B” stands for behaviours associated with the maintenance/development of an eating disorder such as obsessive behaviours relating to weight (constant weighing) and food (measuring, picking), while “C” stands for the consequences of the individual’s behaviour which may be both internal and external.

image by iowalum.com

How to Change the Antecedents

Changing the antecedents or triggers involves the following: the carer may do their utmost to create a calm, tranquil, supportive environment to provide a most conducive to recovery setting as possible.

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Create a calm, supportive environment – image by thejoshuatreehouse.com

Trying to stick to non-threatening or pleasurable conversations such as topics relating to holidays past/future is a positive step. Playing peaceful music can also help the sufferer to feel less anxious during meal times. Further distraction methods such as pre-planning a specific game (the geography game for example) or asking another family member to talk about the best parts of their day may also be beneficial.

How to Change the Behaviours

In order to help the individual suffering from an eating disorder the carer may need to become aware of how best to practice assertiveness skills.

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Changing behaviour – image by emexlondon.com

Ideally, the carer will be most effective if they are able to remember the key “C’s” as highlighted by Treasure et al.; remain calm, consistent, clear, compassionate, caring and concerned. Motivate and encourage through acting as a meal coach but be careful not to collude with the eating disorder for example by providing constant unhelpful reassurance about food, size or weight.

How to Change the Consequences

Changing the consequences primarily involves helping the sufferer to manage their extremely uncomfortable and difficult to manage feelings of anxiety and loss of control.

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Changing the consequences help patient manage feelings of anxiety and loss of control – image by eatthis.com

This may be achieved through the pre-planning of suitable distraction activities, relaxation or means to provide a cathartic release such as through painting or writing key thoughts down in a journal.


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