You may have noticed that people who have completed alcohol rehabilitation successfully are called recovering alcoholics, while those who have battled an eating disorder are simply called “have had” anorexia and bulimia. Do they mean that their eating problems are over forever? This is a difference to alcoholics, who can relapse just one drink away. As anyone who has successfully completed an eating disorder treatment program knows, the answer is a resounding “no”.
While disordered eaters may have mastered the skills necessary to regain healthy eating habits, they are just as vulnerable as alcoholics and drug users. This is because all three are involved in fighting substance abuse. No matter if the substance is heroin, whiskey, or potato chips; those in recovery must use the coping skills learned in rehab to avoid succumbing to the temptation to abuse it.
How to recognize a potential relapse
A relapse can be defined in substance abusers as a return of the same behavior they used to stop. For recovering anorexics or bulimics, a relapse could be as simple as having negative thoughts about food or obsessing about body weight and size. Just like in drug and alcohol recovery, this is the beginning stage for a relapse. It’s not the first time you drink, or miss a meal, but the thought. You need to stop a relapse now, before it can become a reality.
What to Do About a Relapse
Relapses are not uncommon. Recovering is a process. There is no one way and everyone will make a wrong turn. It is estimated that more than 90% of recovering alcoholics experienced at least one relapse in their journey to sobriety. Relapses for people with eating disorders are about 20% to 50% lower, but it is still a warning sign and should be acknowledged.
Instead of giving in to shame or self-pity which can lead to abandoning your path to recovery, it is important to identify the thoughts and situations that led to the relapse so that next time they happen, you will be able to recognize where you are headed and be able to deal with it. Because no two people are exactly alike, so are the circumstances that led to the relapse. The individual must be aware of his/her own danger signs.
Signs that you are at risk of a relapse into disordered eating
There is no one way that everyone recovers. Relapses can also be triggered by different circumstances. The hardest thing about avoiding a repeat is the fact that many of the triggers are part of everyday life so it’s impossible to avoid them. They all involve stress, even joyous rites like getting married, moving away from home, having children, and being promoted at work.
Sometimes, people fall behind in their recovery during times like these and turn to the comfort of old ways. These are some of the most common warning signs.
Find reasons to eat by yourself or forgo meals altogether
When the topic of food is brought up, irritability.
Changes in attitude regarding recovery, such as cancelling therapy sessions or denying their effectiveness.
Assure them that they aren’t stressed.
It’s obvious to anyone who has seen a loved one suffer, but it’s also evident that any words they use will only make the situation worse. You can help if this is you by seeking out certified counselors who are trained to assist.