Many people often view the term “relapse” as a dirty word. Recovery and relapse are mutually exclusive. Ultimately, you cannot be relapsing and recovering at the same time. Of course, no one wants to experience a relapse. Individuals in recovery work extremely hard to maintain their recovery in the long term. However, sometimes relapse becomes a reality. The key is to remember that relapse never has to be the end of a recovery journey.

Many people may not see eating disorders as the type of disorder one can relapse from. Of course, this is not true. People struggling with eating disorders can relapse as people struggling with substance use disorders (SUDs) do. That is the chronic nature of mental health disorders. They continue to get worse unless intervention and treatment are administered. If that treatment plan isn’t designed with the future in mind, then the potential for relapse is greatly increased.

This is why it is so important to seek out a recovery center that has both a focus on eating disorders, as well as long-term recovery plans. BeCollaborative Care checks both of those boxes and many more. BeCollaborative Care is an authority in eating disorder recovery that also “heals emotions, not just symptoms.”

Understanding the Broad Spectrum of Eating Disorders

Just as there is a broad spectrum of mental health disorders, there is also a broad spectrum of eating disorders. This is important to understand because just as no two eating disorders are the same, neither are two eating disorder recovery plans. On that note, this is why BeCollaborative Care only offers customized recovery plans for every individual that comes through their doors.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), these are a few of the most common eating disorders:

  • Anorexia nervosa, which includes restricting food, binging and purging, and compulsive exercise

  • Bulimia nervosa, which is binge eating followed by compulsory behavior to compensate for it

  • Binge eating disorder, which is binge eating without the compulsory need to purge afterward

  • Pica, which involves the ingesting of non-food items, such as soil, chalk, and hair

  • Night eating syndrome, which is similar to binge eating but happens after awakening from sleep

  • Avoidant or restrictive food intake disorder, which is the dislike or avoidance of food to the point where proper nutrition is affected

  • Orthorexia is an obsession with “healthy eating,” even to the point of fearing unhealthy foods.

One, it is important to understand that these are extremely simplified explanations of these very complex disorders. Two, it is also important to understand that these eating disorders can coexist as comorbidities. They can also exist with other co-occurring mental health disorders. It is also important to understand that none of these eating disorders are immune to the potential for relapse.

Some Warning Signs and Symptoms of Eating Disorders

Yes, there are many types of eating disorders. All of which have their unique warning signs and symptoms. However, some common warning signs can broadly cover the spectrum of eating disorders. The following are some of the more common warning signs of eating disorders:

  • Showing a preoccupation with weight, food, counting calories, and/or dieting

  • Having trouble eating around others

  • Creating “food rituals,” such as not allowing different foods on the same plate or excessively chewing food

  • Restricting food intake, including skipping meals and taking excessively small portions

  • Expressing concern about body image, specifically with their weight

  • Showing signs of trouble sleeping, such as sleeping too much or too little

  • Complaining about feeling cold all the time

  • Having dry skin, hair, and nails

  • Regular bouts of dizziness, including incidents of fainting

  • Feeling depressed and anxious, as well as having excessive mood swings

If these warning signs begin to manifest, it may be time to seek professional help. Getting help sooner than later can be the difference between short-term and long-term negative effects.

Recovery and Relapse: A Focus on the Long-Term

Relapse from an eating disorder often occurs because an individual was not set up with the proper tools and techniques to maintain their recovery plan after they leave the treatment center. A relapse from an eating disorder is not a choice, and it often doesn’t have to do with external circumstances. It is often because the underlying emotional issues of an eating disorder are either “triggered” or not properly addressed in treatment.

The good news is that relapse doesn’t have to end a recovery journey. It may just mean that a recovery plan needs to be altered or a new customized recovery plan needs to be implemented. With the right combination of nutrition planning, therapy, and other supplemental treatment modalities, long-term eating disorder recovery is possible.

Eating disorder recovery is not a linear journey. With the right recovery plan, even with a relapse, that journey can continue to move forward with positive momentum. Sometimes in life, we take a side step, but that shouldn’t stop the next step from being a step forward.

Many people overlook that individuals can relapse from eating disorder recovery in similar ways that people struggling with substance use disorders do. For individuals that may have reverted to their eating-disordered behaviors, it is important to remember that there is always hope, and it is never too late to reseek treatment. If you or a loved one are struggling with an eating disorder relapse, we can help you get back on the right path toward long-term recovery. Relapse doesn’t have to be the end. It can be the start of a wonderful new life. For more information on recovery options for individuals struggling with eating disorders, please reach out to be Collaborative Care today at (401) 262-0842.