I came across an article in SELF magazine about one of the cast member’s of Real Housewives of New York City struggle to fully recover from bulimia. The article quotes the woman, “Bulimia, it’s with you forever.” First off, let’s temper that as an overstatement of someone who has not yet fully recovered. Secondly, let me say that, yes, relapse is not uncommon in the battle with an eating disorder.
Research states that about 7 to 9 out of 10 individuals with an eating disorder do recover though. There may be lapses in behaviors, moments where the eating disorder drive is too powerful for the individual to ignore for a meal or up to a few days. And there are also relapses where the behavior becomes a repeated pattern that the individual needs help to abstain from again. But full recovery is what we expect as it’s the reality for most people.
I’m drawn to the story of a long-time client of mine who was a middle-aged woman with a family. She struggled with her eating disorder from the age of 15. Her teen years will filled with fear of food, fear of being overweight, and regular restriction and compulsive exercise. As she grew older, her perspective changed with the inclusion of a supportive spouse and her children’s unconditional affection for her.
There were still times where eating with family, at work with colleagues, or in unfamiliar places led to great insecurity for her. She refrained from eating in those situations, would later binge eat due to hunger and a sense of having been deprived of what she wanted, and to relieve the pent up anxiety she felt would purge. Bulimia was her primary diagnosis at this point and it took her three attempts at IOP care to finally break the cycle once and for all.
While she saw each relapse as a failure, we continued to preach to her that each time she chose recovery she was solidifying her foundation to make recovery permanent. These were steps forward in her journey, not steps backward. If she chose not to return to treatment, that was be a defeat. She chose to keep making steps forward. What a gift to herself.
There is no expectation for how long it takes to recover. For some it is years in the making. For others it’s months. All we want is for you to know that full recovery from bulimia is possible. Learn about the disease, how it developed for you both physiologically and psychologically, and prepare to do what you need to do to fully recover. Then make the first step.
By Andrew Walen, LCSW-C, LICSW, CEDS - Founder and CEO at The Body Image Therapy Center. If you would like to get in touch with Andrew please call 877-674-2843 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.