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How to watch for signs of relapse in anorexia patients


Many individuals with eating disorders report that getting treatment isn't the hard part of finally addressing the problem - it's avoiding relapse during recovery.

Given that anorexia is considered both a psychological and physiological condition, "curing" it isn't necessarily possible - one can only hope to manage the disease on a day-to-day basis to avoid falling back into dangerous behaviors.

If you suspect a loved one is relapsing, or about to relapse, pay attention to the following signs:

Perfectionistic or controlling tendencies

With the worry that one might be losing control over food can come the perfectionistic tendencies around eating. Behavior might include more of an emphasis on dieting, portion control or calorie counting.

Compensatory exercise

While exercise is healthy and should be a part of a healthy recovery, a person might be in relapse mode if they are exercising obsessively or using exercise to compensate for eating (to lose weight, burn more calories, or achieve a certain body shape).

Avoiding food or secretive behavior

Someone with anorexia tends to know when they are slipping back into old behaviors, so it's common for this person to suddenly become secretive. This form of isolation could involve avoiding social events where there is food, skipping family meal time, or refusing to attend therapy or support group meetings.

Negative self-talk

An increase in negative self-talk could also indicate that relapse is occurring or about to occur. Watch for critical comments about weight, body image, or other aspects of personal appearance.

In patients with anorexia, relapse doesn't meant the person has failed - he or she simply needs to deal with the behavior and emotions that caused the relapse, seeking professional help if necessary.

Family members and friends must strike a delicate balance between showing concern and being too pushy. However, expressing your love and concern with respect and honesty can be helpful for someone with anorexia if you suspect that a relapse is on the horizon.

Source: NEDA