From what I’ve learned, Eating Disorder recovery seems to be life-long. Eating Disorders never truly go away and recovery never happens only once. The word relapse is a word many people have probably come across. In regards to eating disorder recovery, relapse can be common. Relapse is when a person who is in recovery from an eating disorder goes back to their disordered eating behaviours or negative thoughts about food, weight and body size.
Why do we relapse? There are a range of risk factors that influence a person with an eating disorder to relapse. For example, eating disorder patients who are still concerned about their body shape and weight, or who exercise at high levels after completing treatment, are more likely to relapse. People who have not been successful in recovery in the past are also more likely to relapse. This is because they might not believe that they can keep up the positive changes they have made during treatment. Other risk factors for relapse include past suicide attempts, a dysfunctional or negative family environment, and trouble hanging out with or meeting people.
Depending on the person’s point in recovery, relapse can trigger a range of emotions. Some will feel guilty, ashamed, frustrated and weak that they have relapsed with an eating disorder where as others, who are still in a disordered mindset will believe to feel in control, strong and happy.
Signs of an eating disorder relapse include:
- Thoughts continue to turn back to weight and food
- Increasing need to be in control over many things
- Perfectionistic thinking returns or becomes stronger
- Feelings of needing to escape from stress and problems
- Feeling hopelessness and/or increasing sadness
- Increasing belief that you can only be happy if you are thin
- Increasing belief that you are out of control if you are not on a “diet”
- Dishonesty with treatment coordinators and/or friends and family
- Looking in mirrors often
- Weighing yourself more and determining whether today will be good or bad depending on what shows up on the scale
- Skipping meals, or purging them
- Avoiding food and/or get-togethers that involve food
- Increasing need to exercise continually
- Watching what food you put into your body and writing it all down
- Thoughts of suicide
- Feeling guilt after eating
- Feeling the need to isolate yourself from those around you
- Feeling “fat” even though people say otherwise
Relapses are a very normal part of recovery and they are to be expected. For some people they last for a day, for some a week, a month or longer, but a relapse does not mean that you have failed.
Every day has a brand new beginning ❤