Relapse Prevention - Eating Disorders

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The road to recovery is usually long and hard.No one travels it gracefully.There are many slips, trips and lapses.Those who eventually do recover learn to pick themselves up when they fall,brush off the dust, and keep going.By doing so,they keep temporary lapses from turning into full-blown relapses.

they can and will happen during recovery from an eating disorder. I want to say right now that if you are suffering from an eating disorder and making a hard attempt at getting better, that sooner or later you will encounter a relapse (if you haven't already). The relapse could last a day, a week, a month, but a relapse is not an uncommon thing to have happen during recovery from an eating disorder. This does not mean that you shouldn't try at all to recover because you think, "Well, I'm just going to relapse anyway, so what's the point?"

Relapses are a common part of recovery from an eating disorder because during the time at which we are trying to break free from the chains of a anorexia or bulimia, we are learning to be ourselves again. Many times, someone doesn't even know who they actually are when in the world of an eating disorder, so recovery means breaking free from everything they have thought they were in life. This makes recovery from an eating disorder a big learning experience for not just finding out who we are in life, but also how to deal with the pain in our lives that we tried to starve into control or purge away. Relapses will happen, but that doesn't mean you should give up right away or not try. Relapses are here to teach us where the areas are that we still need to work on.

Just like with an eating disorder,recovery from an eating disorder is not about perfection.No one recovery is perfect and never will be.Don't beat yourself up for any relapses that you have.Instead,look at your progress and the good days,and congratulate yourself for those.=)

So how do you prevent eating disorder relapses?
Realize that a relapse can come on quickly by the smallest trigger and that not just one trigger can cause a relapse.Anything from stress from school or your family,to coping with something that a friend is going through,to having just talked about a difficult thing that occurred in your life with a therapist can trigger the onset of an eating disorder relapse.Recognize ahead of time the things that could trigger you to a relapse.Here are some things that I've noticed tend to trigger relapses or slip backs for me:
-Mid-terms and finals at school or any major exams that are in the near future.
-Increasing pressure from family (especially parents) or problems with them are increasing.
-Going through a painful break-up with a girlfriend or boyfriend or being rejected.
-Problems with a husband or wife.
-Problems at work.
-A competition in a sport coming up (spec. gymnastics, ballet and/or dance)
-The loss of a friend or family member.
-Having a friend that is going through a rough time.
-Recently talking to a therapist about past trauma (sexual/mental/physical abuse,rape,etc.)
-Just being released from inpatient treatment.
-Being around those that are engrossed with their own eating disorders while you are trying to recover.
-Fear of recovering.
-Believing that you are fully recovered when there are still underlying issues that have not been properly dealt with in a non-destructive way.

These are just some of the things that can trigger an eating disorder relapse. Look at your own life and make your own list ahead of time of things that can trigger you to turn back to trying to starve or purge your problems away. Recognizing ahead of time what can harm you and what you can do to help deal with those problems in a non-self-destructive way when they come.

Many relapses occur when someone has begun talking with a therapist about past traumas like abuse or rape,but that this does not mean that you should not talk about it just because it triggers you.

With something as horrific as abuse or rape you must talk about it so that you can learn to move on from it.Otherwise,if you just continue to run from dealing with those issues,they will continue to haunt you and cause pain in your life. The only way to finally free yourself of those problems is by dealing with them.If you are talking with your therapist about issues that are triggering, please,please,please let the therapist know that this is very hard for you to talk about and that your other problems,whether they be an eating disorder,depression,self mutilation,OCD, etc.,are at high risk of getting worse from talking and finally having to deal with it.

Studies have suggested that almost 30 to 50% of all patients thought to be successfully treated become ill again within 1 year of achieving clinical recovery.After this first,most difficult post-recovery year,patients may still relapse at the rate of 3% per year.The overall relapse rate is currently about 20%.

Relapse is defined as:
-The failure of the patient to maintain a body weight that is at least 85% of what is considered to be the individual’s ideal body weight given the individual’s height, age, and gender.
-The cessation of menstrual periods in women.
-The resumption of restrictive and/or purging behaviors.
-The resumption of maladaptive attitudes regarding dietary habits

*Relapse can occur only after the achievement of clinical recovery,as previously defined.

Before an eating disorder relapse,it's also helpful to have a list of people(and phone numbers) to call during the times that you are triggered or when you suspect that you will be triggered.If possible,you might also want to have a sponsor,a person who can keep track of your behaviors and reactions,so that you have someone to warn you ahead of time when it is suspected that you are relapsing.No matter what your head tells you,it really is okay to have extra support during the rough times.You are not weak or greedy.You are,however,going through a rough time and just need some help coping.

There is nothing wrong with that!

Sometimes what helps people from relapsing is making a list of things they can do instead of starving or purging.Things like cleaning,playing with your cat your dog, an animal,going on the computer,talking with a friend,going camping,listening to your favorite CD,and so on can be very helpful!

The signs of an eating disorders relapse:
Perhaps you're wondering how you can tell if you are even relapsing or not. Here's a list of signs to look for.If you,or someone you know is experiencing these signs of an eating disorders relapse,then it's time to get help:
-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. -Skipping meals, or purging them.
-Avoiding food and/or get-togethers that involve food. -Increasing need to exercise continually.
-Thoughts of suicide. -Feeling guilt after eating.
-Feeling the need to isolate yourself from those around you. -Feeling "fat" even though people say otherwise.

When you have most of the signs of an eating disorder relapse:
If you are currently going through an eating disorder relapse:
-Sit down and try to figure out how you were feeling before the relapse occurred and what was going on at the time that could have triggered you.
-Make a plan of how you can deal with the trigger in better ways the next time it comes around.
-Recognize how you are feeling right now and how you can change those feelings through helpful reactions.
-Know that you can talk to someone about what is going on in your life,whether it involves the relapse or things that triggered the relapse.

Most importantly,realize that you do not need to be hard on yourself for this relapse!Guilt and beating yourself up for slipping gets you nowhere and is not needed.All beating yourself up over this will do is make you feel bad and will give even more fuel to the eating disorder to use against you.You are not a failure.Recovery from an eating disorder is not meant to be perfect,and you are not meant to be perfect.There is no shame with having an eating disorder or a relapse.I cannot stress enough that when a relapse occurs it does not mean that you have "failed once again," but what it does mean is that there are feelings inside that still need to be dealt with!!

Once again, relapses - they can and will happen during recovery from an eating disorder. This doesn't mean that you shouldn't try at all or that you are a failure if you relapse.Recovery takes a long,long time to reach and it involves dealing with a lot of painful issues that can leave you susceptible to relapsing into old "comforts" like starving or purging.

Please,reach out for help if you suspect that you have relapsed or that you are close to doing so,and then recognize what caused you to relapse in the beginning.

You deserve help and you deserve to get matter what. Sober Teens Online Can Help