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Functional Analysis: A Tool for Recovery

As you work towards recovery, you are very likely to have occasional slips. By analyzing these slips with a Functional Analysis, you may be able to prevent excessive slips or relapses.

The Functional Analysis behavior chain looks like this:

What all this means:
*Trigger* This is what initiates, or "triggers", the behavior. Common triggers include: numbers (such as weights or calories); arguments; mirrors; breaking up with a boyfriend/girlfriend; certain behaviors by friends or family members; bad grades.
*Thoughts* These are the things you think in regard to the trigger. For example, you may see someone's weight and think, "Boy am I fat!" You may do poorly on a test and think, "I am SO stupid." These thoughts are usually extreme and self-degrading.
*Feelings* These are the things you feel as a result of the thoughts. For example, thinking an argument is all your fault may cause you to feel guilty and worthless. Click here for a list of feelings: Feelings
*Behavior* This, of course, is the negative behavior. It may be restricting, bingeing, purging, cutting, or some other self-injurious action.
*Positive Consequences* The negative behavior IS serving you in some way, otherwise you would not continue to do it! Some positive consequences include: numbness; relief; escape; sense of accomplishment; a "high" or euphoria. Positive consequences are usually immediate and definite.
*Negative Consequences* These are the reasons NOT to continue the behavior. For example, ED behaviors can lead to serious medical problems, and SM behaviors can lead to accidental DEATH.

How analyzing your behaviors can help your recovery:
Generally when a situation arises, we immediately react. We skip right from the trigger to the behavior, and are unaware of the thoughts and feelings in between. By knowing the "in-between" stuff, we are able to break the chain. The chain can be broken at any point. Here's how:
*Trigger* You can break the chain before it even starts by removing yourself from your triggers. Make a list of your triggers, and see which ones you can avoid. For example, if weighing yourself causes you to restrict, throw out your scale and refrain from weighing yourself.
*Thoughts* Get used to recognizing your thoughts as negative and potentially harmful. When you start thinking negatively, do something to distract yourself, or counteract the negative thoughts with positive ones. For example, when you start thinking, "I am really stupid," you could either do something you enjoy, or say to yourself, "I'm not stupid, I did really well on my math test last week."
*Feelings* When you recognize a negative feeling arising, counteract it with a positive feeling. When you start feeling depressed, watch a funny movie. When you start feeling anxious, try relaxation techniques. When you are mad at yourself, do something good for yourself such as treating yourself to a bubble bath. Another thing you can do when you start having negative feelings is to see if the feelings are justified. Should you really feel guilty for eating when it's a necessity? Should you really be mad at yourself for getting a bad grade when it's only one test?
*Behavior* If you are already acting on your urge, it is probably too late to break the chain... But you can prevent future action by doing a functional analysis!
*Positive Consequences* Substitute the negative behaviors with positive behaviors that have similar effects. The alternatives should be immediate and definite - in other words, you shouldn't have to wait for the resulting feeling, and you should feel confident that a positive feeling WILL result. For example, if cutting gives you a "high", try exercising to get an adrenaline high. If restricting gives you a sense of accomplishment, try doing a project.
*Negative Consequences* Make a list of all the negative consequences, and keep it with you at all times. When you feel the urge to do something harmful, take out your list and remind yourself why you don't want to follow through with the negative behavior.

I hope the Functional Analysis will help you!

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