Relapse & Eating Disorders

Thursday, May 13  •  



Recovery from an eating disorder is far from linear and can be a difficult, ongoing process. Relapse is a common part of recovery and according to the National Eating Disorders Association, is anytime an individual resorts back to disordered habits, overly obsesses about their weight, and has continuous negative thoughts regarding their body size, weight, and food. As a treatment center, we are often asked about relapse and possible prevention. Below, we have included a few answers regarding relapse and preventative measures. 

  • Know the statistics. Relapse rates for eating disorders fall between 35-41% in patients within the first 18 months after discharge. 
  • Re-engagement in treatment. The first 18 months following treatment are when the patient is at the highest risk for a relapse. It may be beneficial for a patient to continue some level of care in the 18 months post-discharge. 
  • Know the risk factors. Common risk factors include previous history of suicide attempts, previous specialized treatment for an eating disorder, the severity of obsessive-compulsive symptoms at presentation, exessive exercise immediately after discharge, and residual concern about shape and weight at discharge, severe caloric restriction, elevated work and social stressors, and slower response to treatment.
  • Be aware of warning signs. Signs to look out for include falling back into old behaviors, isolating from friends and family, refraining from recovery strategies and coping skills, increased negative thinking, and skipping meals. 
  • Prevention. At Avalon Hills, we believe in the philosophy of Treat to Outcome. As clients progress through the various stages of their recovery program, they work with multiple professionals who will help them develop a healthier relationship with food, exercise, and their bodies. As they prepare to leave our facility, we focus on teaching effective coping strategies to deal with the inevitable challenges, stresses, and fears that may arise as they transition back into a complex and body-conscious world. As a team, we also place a heavy emphasis on creating and maintaining a lasting relationship with our clients after they leave our facility. Regular phone check-ins and in-person visits help ensure continuity of care and assists in staying on track. We believe strongly in collaborating with outpatient providers to give individuals the best possible chance of success after discharge. 

Other exercises that may help prevent relapse include listing out all of the reasons why you deserve recovery, keeping a journal of triggers, listening to music, practicing daily words of affirmation, finding laughter in your daily routine, and throwing out the scale. 

Relapse does not occur with everyone who receives treatment for an eating disorder, however, it does not hurt to know that it can occur and to be aware of the risk factors and warning signs. 

If you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms of an eating disorder or are going through a relapse, give us a call at 435-938-6060.