Relapses: Part of the recovery process

Relapses, which involve an increase in symptoms that have improved, often occur during recovery from an eating disorder. While these relapses are unpleasant, and often a bit scary, it can be reassuring to know that it is very much a part of the recovery process.

Relapses can be triggered by a number of things and events, and it may be a good idea to work out what is going on for you.

  • Have you recently read about, seen or heard anything about eating disorders, weight or body shape? These situations are common triggers for eating disordered thoughts and feelings. If so, think about how you can avoid these. For example, turn off the TV when a diet advert is on, close the web page, or walk away from a conversation about weight and eating.
  • What is going on in your life at the moment? Relapses are often triggered by stressful situations in your personal or work life. Try to work out what might be upsetting you at the moment. Are you feeling upset or hurt by someone in your life? Maybe there has been a fight, or a major event like moving, changing job, illness or bereavement. Eating disorders are often a way to cope with difficult feelings, so working out what’s causing your relapse is a helpful part of recovery.

What can you do right now?

Journalling or thinking about your feelings can help with what’s going on behind your eating disorder at the moment. You can also try to break the cycle of thoughts by doing something like going for a bath or taking a walk.