While there is certainly hope and support for women struggling with eating disorders, relapse is a true danger. Specifically, women recovering from bulimia have a 31% chance of relapsing in their first 6 months following treatment. Sadly, after relapse, most of these women will end up continuing with self-harm behaviors. And neglect utilizing what they’ve learned in treatment or doing what they’ve applied during recovery. Fortunately, there are a few things individuals in recovery can do following a relapse to continue with healing efforts. And, there are a few things supportive individuals (family and friends) of women in recovery can do during a bulimia relapse.
Before one can spot a bulimia relapse in their own life or in the life of a loved one, one must understand what a relapse is. Basically, a bulimia relapse is when a woman in recovery from bulimia reverts back to bulimic behaviors and/or thought patterns. This may include:
Mainly, individuals end up relapsing due to high stress and emotional instances during recovery. After a relapse, it’s common that individuals may experience negative emotions like guilt and shame. This can prolong a relapse and keep individuals from continuing with recovery. However, it’s important to remember that if you or a loved one experiences a bulimia relapse, it doesn’t have to mean the end of recovery efforts. There is still hope for a full recovery and relapse doesn’t mean that you’re untreatable.
It can be challenging to watch a loved one struggle with eating disorders and revert back to bulimic behaviors following treatment. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do as a loved one to help including:
Practice Understanding: Unless you’ve experienced eating disorders yourself, it can be challenging to understand what living with bulimia is like. But, you can try. During a bulimia relapse, a person can feel hopeless and lost. So, they need reassurance during this time that their loved ones are still there for them. This includes validating your loved one’s feelings and offering compassion as recovery from bulimia is no walk in the park.
Talk About the Future: While a person struggling with mental health issues may have to determine whether or not they need help themselves, loved ones can certainly play a role in this decision. Talk to your relapsing loved one about what led them to relapse in the first place and how to tackle these triggers in the future. And, suggest that getting help may assist in dealing with these specific relapse triggers so they may consider getting the support they need.
Help with Seeking Support: If your relapsed loved one is in agreeance that support is beneficial, you can help by looking for treatment facilities. While there is no guarantee that your loved one will choose the support you seek, it can offer a choice in which your loved one will have a say in their own future. Who knows; if you approach her with compassion and support, she may accept the help you find.
If you notice yourself slipping back into self-harmful behaviors or thought patterns, you may be wondering what you can do about your own bulimia relapse. Some things you can consider include:
Be Honest with Yourself: You can’t move past a relapse unless you acknowledge that it has happened. Begin the process of healing by accepting what has happened. And, be honest about the fact that you may need help to continue with recovery.
Don’t be too Hard on Yourself: As mentioned, bulimia relapse can bring about emotions of fear, regret, anger, and guilt. However, don’t give in to these emotions. Know that relapse is common and for many, another part of the recovery process. So, don’t let it determine your future and who you turn out to become!
Be Willing to Keep Going: Too often, individuals let a relapse stop their recovery efforts completely. But, those that are willing to continue with recovery still have hope for a future free from the symptoms of eating disorders. So, be willing to continue with getting the help you need to establish true and lasting recovery, even if you experience a relapse.
If you or a loved one has experienced a bulimia relapse, we can help provide the tools you need to live a successful life of recovery.
Here at Willow Place for Women, we offer individualized support to establish personalized healing for each woman who comes to us struggling with trauma, eating disorders, and addiction. To learn more about our outpatient eating disorder programs, contact us today.