If you suffer from an eating disorder, the circumstances that led to it are unique to you and to your situation. Just as there is no one clear model for how an eating disorder develops, there is no set timetable for how long it will take to recover or how much counseling any given patient needs. Recovery from an eating disorder, like recovery from alcoholism or drug addiction, is an ongoing journey. As a recovering anorexic, bulimic, or overeater you must continue to be aware of your risks and of the potential for relapse. Taking advantage of follow-up counseling and remaining in contact with your support network can help you get through difficult times and ensure a successful long-term recovery.
Common Causes of Eating Disorders
Many people struggling with an eating disorder are also struggling with insecurity, low self-esteem, poor self-image, or a desire to achieve an unrealistic ideal of outward appearance. Eating disorders are more common among females but happen to males as well and maybe a symptom of living in a society that places a disproportionately high value on physical appearance. Many people learn to judge themselves and others based on physical appearance, and they may feel that they don’t measure up to the physical ideals they are constantly exposed to in the media.
Eating disorders are also often maladaptive coping mechanisms developed in response to emotions that are hard to deal with. Difficulty coping with feelings of anger, resentment, insecurity, inadequacy, depression, loneliness, despair, grief, or a host of other emotions may lead to developing the habit of self-medicating with food or controlling food consumption. An eating disorder may also be an effort to exert control over a life that feels out of control.
Treatment for Eating Disorders
Treatment for eating disorders usually involves the traditional cognitive-behavioral model of psychotherapy that is used in cases of addiction and mental health recovery. Counseling will address the emotional and psychological root causes of the disorder as well as the behavior that results. A good counselor will help the patient to do the following:
- Identify and address emotional issues at the heart of the problem
- Learn to understand how food is used as an unhealthy coping strategy
- Learn to recognize feelings that trigger disordered eating
- Learn to see yourself as a whole person and as more than your appearance
- Learn to accept your range of emotions and deal with them in rational and realistic ways
- Learn healthy skills for coping with stress and emotional triggers rather than turning to the maladaptive response of anorexia or bulimia
- Focus on proper nutrition, exercise, and healthy weight management
Just as your eating disorder developed over time, it will take time to treat it. Recovery should not be rushed. Signs of improvement do not mean that you are “cured” and should discontinue treatment. Follow through with your therapist’s recommendations, and remember that therapy can provide the basis for an ongoing support system.
Need Help Finding Treatment for an Eating Disorder?
If you would like assistance finding treatment for an eating disorder, call our 24-hour helpline today. We are here to talk with you and provide resources for recovery. All calls are free and confidential, so there is no reason to wait.