Blog Contributed by Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC for Eating Disorder Hope
Maintaining recovery from bulimia involves a constant dedication to the treatment protocol that has been outlined and prescribed by your health care professionals. This may include regular therapy sessions, following a meal plan framework given by a registered dietitian, and taking scheduled prescription medications.
Even the most vigilant planning cannot prevent relapses from occurring in your recovery, which can be a natural part of the journey and process.
Why Does Relapse Happen?
Why do relapses occur in eating disorder recovery and what can be done to plan ahead for relapses? The reality is that relapses can happen as a person recovers from bulimia for several reasons. As a person becomes stronger and learns to resist their eating disorder, they will find themselves facing triggers in a whole new way.
Bulimia often develops from a variety of complex factors, including:
- Genetics and family history
- Environmental conditions
- Psychological issues
Treatment Should Factor In All Aspects of the Relapse
Because many factors contribute to the disorder, treatment and healing similarly involves a multi-factorial approach. As a person re-learns to live their life apart from bulimia, they are essentially developing a new coping response to the various situations they may encounter.
While engaged in the eating disorder, bulimia is a maladaptive coping response that progresses in light of other factors, and unraveling these patterns and behaviors takes commitment to the integration of eating recovery skills.
Important Steps to Long-Term Recovery
Whether you are starting out your recovery journey from bulimia or if you have been in recovery for a long period of time, it is essential to understand how to approach the possibility of relapse. While relapses in your recovery journey can occur, this does not mean that you have failed in any way or that you can no longer pursue your recovery from bulimia.
Here are some important steps to follow to ensure that your recovery will continue for the long-term and to minimize the chances of relapse in your own journey:
Stay committed to your treatment plan:
Whether you are in residential care for bulimia or have moved to outpatient care or anything in between, it is critical that you follow the protocol that your professional treatment team has outlined for you.
Attempting to transition into a different level of care prematurely or not adhering to the treatment plan recommended by your team can increase your risk of relapse.
Understand your triggers:
As you work through your recovery from bulimia, it is important to understand what may trigger bulimic behaviors and tendencies in your life.
Having a greater awareness of these situations can help you better plan for the future and practice new cognitive strategies as learned in your recovery.
Have a relapse “emergency” plan:
What should you do in the case that you find yourself amidst a bingeing episode? Or if you are suddenly overwhelmed by an urge to purge? Know what to do before these situations arise, such as calling a trusted friend, contacting your therapist or having an “escape” strategy.
Having an unwavering commitment to your recovery, regardless of the setbacks or obstacles you may encounter, will carry you through the many ups and downs of the journey. Remember that relapse does not equivocate to failure, and you can achieve a lasting freedom from bulimia!