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Prevention of an Eating Disorder Relapse

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 within myself and those who I know:

  • 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.

Eating Disorder relapses can be triggered by different things. Here's a list of causes and how to prevent eating disorder relapses.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.

I really want to point out that 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 relieve 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.

"Loving yourself takes work, patience and hope. Treat yourself like a friend whenever you're about to take a dive..." SushiJunkie

Before an eating disorder relapse it is also helpful to have a list of people and their phone numbers for you 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 an animal, going on the computer, talking with a friend, going camping, listening to your favorite CD, and so on can help.

next: Self-Mutilation: The Truth Behind the Shame
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APA Reference
Staff, H. (2008, December 22). Prevention of an Eating Disorder Relapse, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, August 9 from https://www.healthyplace.com/eating-disorders/articles/prevention-of-an-eating-disorder-relapse

Last Updated: January 14, 2014

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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