Contributor: Staff at Montecatini Eating Disorder Treatment Center
Most of us are aware of the impact that family history and environment can have on many mental health conditions. These two aspects of a person’s life can raise or lower their risk of being diagnosed with a mental health condition, such as an eating disorder. It can also influence one’s resilience in eating disorder treatment.
This has led many people to wonder if one factor plays a larger role in the development of such conditions. The truth is, no single risk factor works alone to bring about symptoms of disordered eating.
If genetic or environmental risk factors are strong enough, they may contribute to the diagnosis of an eating disorder. This has led researchers to study family relationships to determine the specific effect they have on the development of eating-related mental health conditions.
A Mother’s Impact on Her Daughter
Emerging research from BMC Women’s Health has analyzed how different eating disorders are influenced by the home environment and family interactions. This study found that daughters who are living with anorexia nervosa demonstrated less dietary restraint in response to their mothers’ perfectionism and desire to be thin.
Additionally, daughters who are living with bulimia nervosa demonstrated less impulsivity in response to their mothers’ personal dietary restraint. This study also analyzed daughters who have binge-eating disorder and their mothers. Findings associated with this relationship showed a mutual feeling of distrust and equal levels of depression and anxiety in these mothers and daughters.
This study clearly demonstrated that each eating disorder has a unique impact on relationships, especially within the family. Since the majority of mothers in this study had strict views regarding their own body image, this could have prompted more daughters to seek treatment for an eating disorder.
The results of this study showed that many daughters were able to overlook distorted thinking in their home environment by exhibiting personality traits that were different from those of their mother.
Though the daughters in this study were diagnosed with eating disorders, their views on body image were different from distorted views held by their mothers. This points toward the presence of supportive factors that countered negative interactions and environments to assist in the eating disorder recovery process.
The Role of Resilience in Eating Disorder Treatment
The concept of resilience is a majorly supportive factor in the treatment of mental health conditions since resilience predicts someone’s ability to improve when presented with hardships or other life difficulties.
Resilience has also been linked to psychological and mental growth following several traumatic events, including being raised in an unsupportive home environment.
Resilience in eating disorder treatment not only plays a role in the eating disorder recovery process, but it can also decrease someone’s risk for developing an eating disorder. Luckily, resilience is a skill that can be developed in response to sources of stress or adversity.
Resilience can assist in managing emotions and behaviors, creating plans for recovery and wellness, increasing the ability to problem-solve and communicate feelings, and building a positive self-image. There are several strategies that you can incorporate into your routine to assist in the daily management of an eating disorder and a healthy response to stress.
Developing Strategies to Build Resilience
- Set goals for yourself. Goal setting is one of the best ways to focus on the future and work toward recovery. Setting goals is also a great way to identify your needs and preferences for treatment. For example, one person may prioritize creating a unique and healthy exercise regimen as their key to wellness, while someone else may focus on adopting a diet that gives them the right amount of structure to stay on track. Mental health professionals can assist with making these goals during the treatment process, but it helps to establish what you hope to get out of treatment.
- Build strong connections. Having solid social supports will help you through large and small hardships that you may face during recovery from an eating disorder. This network can consist of nurturing friends, family, coaches, therapists, mentors, teachers, and counselors. When you face hard times, you may initially feel alone in your struggles. However, if you have consistent sources of motivation throughout the treatment process, you can reach out to anyone of your supports for the help you need.
- Change the way you look at change. Change is a constant that we do not have control over. Each day brings more change and tests our ability to cope with all that comes our way. By focusing on reality and accepting what you have been given, you will be better able to set goals and work toward your idea of wellness and healing. The recovery process is all about your transformation into a healthier, happier, and more adjusted individual, so this mindset will complement your personal growth along the way.
References: Comas-Diaz, L.; Luthar, S.S.; Maddi, S.R.; O’Neill, H.K.; Saakvitne, K.W.; and Tedeschi, R.G. (2019). The road to resilience. Retrieved from American Psychological Association website: https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/road-resilience#targetText=Resilience%20is%20the%20process%20of,bouncing%20back%22%20from%20difficult%20experiences.  Rutten, B.P.F.; Hammels, C.; Geschwind, N.; Menne-Lothmann, C.; Pishva, E.; Schruers, K.; … and Wichers, M. (2013). Resilience in mental health: Linking psychological and neurobiological perspectives. Acta Psychiatr Scand, 128(1), 3-20. doi: 10.1111/acps.12095  Vazquez-Velazquez, V.; Kaufer-Horwitz, M.; Mendez, J.P.; Garcia-Garcia, E.; and Reidl-Martinez, L.M. (2017). Eating behavior and psychological profile: Associations between daughters with distinct eating disorders and their mothers. BMC Women’s Health, 17, 74. doi: 10.1186/s12905-017-0430-y
About Our Sponsor:
At Montecatini Eating Disorder Treatment Center in Carlsbad, California, we provide comprehensive care for adolescent and adult women who are living with eating disorders. Our state-of-the-art facility offers the individualized treatment that women need to recover from a range of eating disorders and co-occurring mental health conditions. Our dedicated team of mental health professionals collaborates with each patient to develop a unique and detailed treatment plan to assist in the recovery process. We provide a full range of eating disorder treatment in response to each woman’s individual needs.
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 a 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.
Reviewed & Approved on October 7, 2019, by Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC
Published October 7, 2019, on EatingDisorderHope.com