Don’t Wait Until “After the Holidays” for Residential Treatment

Woman drinking cocoa

It is never easy to acknowledge the necessity for residential treatment when you are struggling with an eating disorder.

The thought of leaving your life and loved ones to attend treatment is scary and becomes even more difficult around the holidays.

At this time, it may be tempting to wait until after the holidays to enter treatment. However, this can pose further harm to you and decrease your likelihood of recovery.

It’s The Most Triggering Time of the Year

While the holidays are times of incredible joy and happiness for most people, those struggling with an eating disorder also find it immensely challenging.

Around this time of year, people look forward to the traditions and memories of years past, many of which involve food.

The constant presence of traditional holiday dishes and the pressure to enjoy meals that are only available this time of year is a source of increased conflict and stress for those with a complicated relationship to food.

In addition to this stress, the busyness of the holiday season can trigger disordered eating behaviors. People often feel anxious about buying gifts, attending parties, and preparing dishes.

We all deal with anxiety in our own ways, however, feeling overwhelming stress can put someone with an eating disorder at risk for engaging in negative coping mechanisms.

These triggers open the door for an individual that is still in the throes of an eating disorder to engage in dangerous and harmful behaviors.

While it may seem harmless to have a holiday hurrah before entering treatment, the damage caused by holiday stress and turmoil create even more challenges for one to work through in treatment.

Early-Intervention is Key

Woman holding snow

One of the most reliable predictors of recovery is early intervention. Eating disorder behaviors become rewarding and habitual over time, making them more ingrained and harder to break [1].

Studies consistently show that intervention within the first three years of the illness is critical for full recovery [1].

Considering this, once it is determined that an individual’s disordered eating behaviors warrant residential treatment, not a minute can be lost.

Act in the Present to Preserve Your Future

The right decision is rarely the easiest to make. Entering residential treatment while everyone else prepares for their holidays is a brave and challenging move but one that yields better rewards in the future.

Remind yourself that prioritizing eating disorder recovery short-term will lead to many free and joyous holidays in the long-term.

Image of Margot Rittenhouse.About the Author: Margot Rittenhouse is a therapist who is passionate about providing mental health support to all in need and has worked with clients with substance abuse issues, eating disorders, domestic violence victims and offenders, and severely mentally ill youth.

As a freelance writer for Eating Disorder and Addiction Hope and a mentor with MentorConnect, Margot is a passionate eating disorder advocate, committed to de-stigmatizing these illnesses while showing support for those struggling through mentoring, writing, and volunteering. Margot has a Master’s of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Johns Hopkins University.


[1] Brown, A. et al. (2016). The FREED project (first episode and rapid early intervention in eating disorders): service model, feasibility and acceptability. Early Intervention in Psychiatry.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on December 17, 2017.
Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on December 17, 2017.
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