The term relapse is one that we often associated with drug or alcohol addiction, but it can be used with eating disorders as well. The following provides an overview of what an eating disorder relapse can look like and how to spot it.

Eating disorders involve not only psychological symptoms, but also physical problems and complications, and they often occur along with other mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse problems.

It is possible to recover from an eating disorder, and the sooner someone seeks treatment, the more likely their chances are to recover successfully. It’s similar in many ways to drug or alcohol addiction, however, because while it is possible to treat an eating disorder, it does require follow-up care after initial treatment, and relapse from eating disorders is possible.

What is An Eating Disorder Relapse?

An eating disorder relapse is when an individual returns to unhealthy eating habits after a period of recovery.

As with addiction, relapse from an eating disorder is seen as part of the recovery process, and even if you go back to the old habits surrounding your disorder, it doesn’t mean that you can’t still have a successful long-term recovery.

As people are in recovery for an eating disorder, they will naturally have good days and bad days, but it’s important to be aware of the potential for relapse and to know the warning signs.

Signs of Eating Disorder Relaspe

Some of the signs that could mean that you or a loved one is moving toward a relapse with an eating disorder include:

  • Your thoughts are starting to become increasingly focused on food and weight.
  • You’ve lost interest in your treatment for your eating disorder, or you’ve been hiding information from your care providers.
  • You’re starting to feel like you’re losing control.
  • You feel hopeless or overwhelmed.
  • When you think about diet and exercise your primary objective is to look good, rather than to feel good.
  • You begin to look in the mirror a lot or weigh yourself often.
  • You start to isolate yourself or avoid situations that involve eating.

Eating Disorder Relapse Prevention

So what should you do if you notice signs of an eating disorder relapse?

The best thing you can do to avoid a full-blown relapse of your eating disorder is to get professional help right away. You’re not a failure, and you shouldn’t see a relapse as a failing or something to be ashamed of.

Along with seeking professional help and being honest with your care providers about what’s happening, you should treat yourself with compassion, and understand that recovery is a process, and this is part of that overall process.

It may also be valuable to make sure you’re getting the proper treatment for your eating disorder and ensure that your current treatment is still working for any co-occurring mental health disorders you may suffer from, such as anxiety or depression.

You can also work with your treatment providers before a relapse occurs on a way to correct it if it does happen so that you’re proactively prepared.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.