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Can eating disorders be 'cured'?

It is possible to make a full recovery from an eating disorder. Even the most acutely unwell individual can recover. However, there is not one specific cure. Recent statistics suggest it can take many years to ‘recover’, and many people believe that you are always in recovery (recovering, developing). This does not mean that they will spend all of this time in a hospital. Recovering from an eating disorder can be particularly emotive for all parties involved.

It is important to ask ourselves what does ‘recovery' look like? For some this can mean absence of any prior thoughts feelings and habits. For other this is often this not the case. Recovery from an eating disorder can happen but the individual may still experience a lesser level of thoughts and feelings that relate to their prior experiences. In recovery, the difference is that the individual has learned to manage these, adapt, and no longer rely on the behaviors that previously consumed them.

When an individual is recovering from an eating disorder they can experience a lapse, where they may appear to slip back into old habits. These lapses can be part of recovery, and as long as the individual is able to move on from it, and their journey to recovery is still possible. Many individuals with eating disorders describe recovery from an eating disorder as a journey with new roads and paths (challenges and situations) emerging throughout their life

A professional’s point of view.

Psychologist, CAMHS
Recovery from an eating disorder is entirely possible but is rarley without immense challenge. Working with children and young adults can mean that we get to see a young person before their difficulties are long established. This can sometimes make it easier for them to engage in the process of treatment and to then move on. Often the secretive nature of the disorders can mean that young people have been suffering for a period of time. As a result, the thoughts they can be experience can be just as entrenched as those experienced by an older person. Having family around as support can be beneficial but it can also present challanges too Recovering from an eating disorder can be particularly emotive for all parties involved.

As people move into adulthood it may be that the triggers from the development of their issues are not as relevant anymore. They then need to turn their attention to focusing on what maintains their current problem and how they would like that to be different.This can be problematic as it is often seen as a way of life by this point. Accessing the right support can be a struggle and there may not be family or positive relationships in the person’s life to rely on at this time.

There is no doubt that you can recover from an eating disorder. There are challenges to this.One challenge is in learning to let go of the familiar way of managing that has been there for so long. Every recovery has some element of mourning to it. This might be mourning the loss of a coping strategy you have used for many years. It might be mourning the way a relationship is, that you cannot change and the need to accept as it even though it may never be what you need. It may even be mourning all the lost time the disorder has taken from you. Without acknowledging this mourning it can be difficult to draw an end to the behaviours and move on.If you do, there may be another sort of life just around the corner, and that might be wonderful.

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