Suffering from an eating disorder

Anyone who has experienced anorexia or bulimia can describe that tantalising paradox as it offers everything you feel as if you are looking for, and at the same time steals your life from you and robs your future hopes. One-sufferer describes ”being weighed down with loneliness, fear, shame and humiliation and with food plaguing my thoughts day and night so that I was trapped in a strict and exhausting regime from which there seemed no escape.”

Having an eating disorder is a lonely and unpredictable journey for any sufferer regardless of age because many of the struggles are the same: image problems, low self-esteem, a distorted views of body shape, fighting to lose or maintain weight, preoccupation with food, social isolation, depression, mental anguish, physical discomfort and health problems…

Anyone who is fighting an eating disorder- as a sufferer or a carer - does so with the belief or hope that they will recover.
Recovery from eating disorders takes time …

Unlike bulimia, where recovery rates are similar after different durations of the illness, recovery from anorexia seems to become harder to grasp hold of the longer you have been suffering. Studies looking at long-term outcomes for anorexia find that of those still suffering after 5 years, nearly 70% are recovered a further 5 years later. But the figures are very different for those who have had anorexia for 10 years - only just over 10% are recovered 5 years later .

Could it be that the nature of anorexia and the impact it has on your mind, body and life means that the longer you suffer the harder it is to break away from? Could it be that longer term sufferers are people who were not able to get the treatment they needed in time (many were first ill in an era where treatment was radically different, and describe traumatic experiences as part of ‘treatment’ which undoubtedly contributed to the worsening of their conditions) or who found that life kept on throwing things at them so they never had a chance to recover but also became more and more to rely on the structure, safety and security it seemed to give them?

Recovery is possible

We may never understand clearly why some people recover, whilst others go on to suffer longer term but at ABC we never lose sight of the truth that recovery is possible! Even for those who have suffered for decades, it is possible to escape from an eating disorder. We must remember that an eating disorder does not define a person that everyone is unique, created to be the person God intends us to be.
Some suggestions for those who are living with eating disorders

(1) Remember that you are not alone! Look to God and do read our article on Faith and Recovery.
(2) Do not blame yourself if you are still to recover. You have not ‘failed’ at recovery! It just hasn’t happened for you … yet!
(3) Try to avoid focusing just on weight gain. Instead, look at other things that help you improve your life – social activities, hobbies and anything that is not centred on the eating disorder.
(4) Keep in touch with doctors and have regular medical monitoring. Obviously there are some long-term impacts of eating disorders. But some medications, supplements etc may help to delay or minimise the development of conditions like osteoporosis.
(5) Get some counselling or therapy for the underlying issues and to help process how you would look at recovery - you cannot work towards recovery if you do not know what it will be for you.
(6) Speak to one of ABC’s team by phone or email and receive on-going support at whatever stage you’re at.
ABC, 05/02/2009
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