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What Does Eating Disorder Treatment Aftercare Look Like?

Approximately eight million Americans have an eating disorder, like anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorders. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate among any mental illness. Among young women ages 15-24, the death rate is 12x higher than any other cause of death within that group.

Eating disorder treatment can entail any combination of psychotherapy, residential services, hospitalization, case management, and nutrition counseling. Many times, one method isn't enough. Similarly, most people need ongoing eating disorder treatment aftercare to maintain their recovery.

Recovery From An Eating Disorder

Eating disorders are complicated, progressive conditions that range in severity. Some disorders are quite apparent, particularly if the individual is severely underweight. Others are more hidden, which can make proper intervention challenging.

Recovery is possible with proper support and treatment. If you are motivated to change and willing to take the actions needed to heal, you can learn new skills to take care of yourself.

That said, recovery must be comprehensive to be effective. Many people with eating disorders also exhibit symptoms of depression, anxiety, trauma, personality disorders, or substance use. One study of more than 2400 individuals found that 97% of people hospitalized for an eating disorder had a co-occurring condition.

Therefore, it is paramount that all recovery measures take such variables into account. While treatment is multifaceted and unique to each individual, some of the overarching goals include:

  • stabilizing weight and nutritional needs.

  • increasing body positivity.

  • medication compliance and adhering to other medical needs.

  • implementing more self-care and self-compassion.

  • identifying potential triggers and creating actionable steps to manage them.

  • strengthening a supportive network.

Recovery is not always linear. Eating disorders are less about food and body image and more about control and distorted thinking. Even the smallest steps in the right direction can trigger immense feelings of fear, shame, or anger, resulting in serious setbacks.

Implementing Optimal Eating Disorder Treatment Aftercare

Unfortunately, it's common for people to struggle with their recoveries once completing treatment.

Without ongoing supervision and monitoring, accountability becomes much harder.

It's essential to develop an aftercare plan that helps maintain some of the momentum developed in treatment. Having everyone aware of this plan can increase someone's chances for sustained success.

Ongoing Support

30, 60, or 90 days is not enough time to adequately process all the emotions and experiences of an eating disorder. Many people benefit from long-term therapy, psychiatry, and nutritional support after completing a formal treatment episode.

Having a professional network of supportive team members boosts personal responsibility. This team is there for you if you start struggling in your recovery. They can cheer on your successes and validate you when you need it most.

Safe Living Arrangements

A toxic home environment can exacerbate stress, increasing the chances of a relapse. If you don't live with people who fully support your recovery, you will need to strengthen your boundaries or consider leaving the situation.

Home needs to be a safe and positive place. Living in a structured mental health environment can offer support and encouragement during your recovery journey. Being around like-minded individuals can also help you feel less alone.

These benefits are significant if you struggle with other co-occurring issues like suicidal ideation or substance use. If your existing home is a serious trigger, it's worth reconsidering it in your aftercare plans.

Healthy Coping Skills

Learning how to implement healthy coping skills is key for recovery. Life will inevitably have stressors, and it's normal to oscillate between emotions on a given day. It's essential that you can practice appropriate responses to manage these difficulties when they arise.

Coping skills can include:

  • reaching out to positive support

  • practicing relaxation exercises like meditation or yoga

  • engaging in creative expression

  • setting boundaries in your personal life

  • practicing more self-compassion and internal validation

  • identifying and challenging negative thoughts

Coping skills must be practiced consistently to become effective. The more you adopt a mindset of taking care of yourself, the more likely you are to believe the benefits of recovery!

Increased Insight

Eating disorders can be tricky, and it's easy to fall into familiar patterns of rationalization, minimization, or denial. For example, you might talk yourself into trying a new diet. Or, you might assume that it's "normal" to hate your body because most of your friends do as well.

Successful recovery entails having a strong awareness of your triggers and tendencies. It also means being aware of the mental scripts you tell yourself about relapse.

Final Thoughts

Eating disorder recovery can be challenging, but it's possible to develop a positive relationship with your body, food, and emotions. Learning how to take care of yourself is one of the best decisions you can make in this life. It's an extraordinary gift to offer yourself and the people you love.

At The Mental Health House, we provide stable housing for people seeking eating disorder treatment aftercare. We are here to support you on your journey. Contact us today to learn more.

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