Whether it is anorexia, bulimia or another eating disorder, recovery is hard work. Once “recovery” is attained for the eating disordered patient, the struggle may not be over. Many patients who have recovered from eating disorders continue to struggle with eating, exercise, and body-image related issues.
What’s more, approximately 35 percent of women with eating disorders will have a relapse within nine years, according to a study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry (Keel, et all, 2005).
Some of the signs/symptoms of an eating disorder relapse, as adapted from HealthyPlace.com are:
Thoughts continue to turn back to weight and food, increasing need to be in control over one’s life and circumstances. Return of strengthening of perfectionistic attitude, preoccupation with food, diet or exercise, purging behaviors, lying to others about your eating habits, etc.
Basically, if the symptoms of your past eating disorder return, there is a problem. Eating disorders sometimes morph into other forms of eating disorders, though. For this reason, it is important to be aware of all symptoms of eating disorders.
There are some steps and tools recovering (or recovered) eating disorder patients can take to help prevent a relapse of their disorder.
General Tips for Eating Disorder Relapse Prevention:
Nourish your body. Do not deprive yourself of food, beverage, sleep, or other important needs. If you allow your body to go into “starvation mode,” you are more likely to revert to unhealthy behaviors. Additionally, if you are sleep-deprived, your body is under stress and you are more likely to suffer setbacks to your recovery.
Pay attention to your feelings throughout the day. If you are experiencing increased stress, anger, anxiety, fear, sadness, even strong joy, be aware of these feelings. Sometimes, especially in the beginning stages of recovery, these feelings may make you want to dull these strong emotions by turning to, or away from food.
If you feel yourself reverting to your old habits, seek help as soon as possible. Call your therapist to make an appointment, even if it has been years. It is easier to prevent a relapse that is just beginning than to treat a full-fledged eating disorder relapse.
Pamela K. Keel, Ph.D., David J. Dorer, Ph.D., Debra L. Franko, Ph.D., Safia C. Jackson, B.S. and David B. Herzog, M.D. (Dec. 2005). “Postremission Predictors of Relapse in Women With Eating Disorders,” The American Journal of Psychiatry. http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/cgi/content/abstract/162/12/2263.
“Relapse Prevention.” ANRED: Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders. Retrieved June, 2007. http://www.anred.com/relpr.html.
“The Signs of an Eating Disorder Relapse.” A Healthy Place. Retrieved June, 2007.