What Does Recovery From Anorexia Look Like?

Every anorexics’ disorder looks slightly different, as does the process of recovery. Every individual differs in willingness to acknowledge the disorder, readiness to change, and motivation to change behaviors. Recovery from anorexia requires a lot of hard work and patience on the part of loved ones.

Stages of Change

Relapse Prevention

Achieving full recovery is a great achievement, however the likelihood of a relapse is always present.

Relapse is a return to old eating disorder behaviors for a period of time. Relapse usually follows a phase of increased stress coupled with the inability (or unwillingness) to employ healthy coping skills.

Although relapse is not isolated to a single incidence of the negative behavior, it does not equal failure. Instead, it is a time for the anorexic to seek professional help straightaway. If the individual is unwilling to do this, it may be pertinent to identify if the intention behind the relapse is more than a way to cope.

Sometimes, relapse can be a choice on the part of the anorexic, indicating his or her desire to resume to the eating disorder.

Although it is a common occurrence in anorexia, there are ways to help prevent relapse. It is important for family and support people to be aware of the anorexic’s red flags (or warning signs) to relapse. These may include many of the same signs the individual displayed at the onset of his or her disorder. If you are unaware of what your loved one’s red flags are, ask!

Slip vs. Relapse

Slips also frequently occur in recovered anorexics. Slips are often confused with relapse, yet there is a significant distinction. A slip is a one-time return back to old eating disorder behavior. Unlike with relapse, the behavior is isolated to a single incident, and does not continue for any period of time.

As with relapse, exploring the intention behind the slip is meaningful. Commonly, it is an unhealthy reaction to a particularly stress-inducing event. When slips occur, the person struggling should get back on track immediately with the meal plan, exercise plan, etc., and tell someone about the slip through reaching out and asking for support.

Identifying what triggered the slip, exploring healthier coping skills for the future, and self-forgiveness are also vital steps to moving on from the slip.

Suicide And Anorexia

Among all mental disorders, anorexia nervosa has the highest occurrence of suicide. Anorexia itself may not be the driving factor in the staggering incidence of suicide, but instead the underlying mental illness. Developing anorexia is often a way for individuals to cope with the depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, etc. they are experiencing.

Anorexia frequently leads individuals to live a very isolated life, secluding themselves from friends, family, and other supports. Isolation increases the severity of symptoms of mental illness, causing a feeling of helplessness and general lack of hope. Mental illness, hopelessness, and distorted thoughts due to starvation create a very dangerous combination.

What Can You Do To Help Prevent Anorexia Nervosa?

With the growing media frenzy around unattainable beauty ideals, the burgeoning plastic surgery craze, and the increasing pressures children are under today, many parents wonder how they can help safeguard their children from developing anorexia.

While there are no guarantees, there are things you can do to support your child’s healthy body image and self-esteem.

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