Recovering From Anorexia
Recovering From Anorexia
Divya Kakaiya (Program Founder and Clinical Supervisor) gives expert video advice on: What is the hardest part of recovering from anorexia?; Why can't an anorexic 'just eat'?; What is the relapse rate for anorexics? and more...
What is the hardest part of recovering from anorexia?
The hardest part of recovering from anorexia is the ambivalence that the person typically has about this 'thin' ideal that they've developed. The hardest part is trying to let go of the association that they've made, which is that thin equals success, thin equals power, thin equals being self sufficient, that thin equals all these things. The hardest challenge in recovery are the body image issues.
Why can't an anorexic 'just eat'?
I think it's so funny. That's such a powerful question because in my families, when people come in for treatment, by the time they come in to treatment, they've had six months of the parents trying to just get her to eat. Now, obviously, if the person could "just eat", if they were forced and they could "just eat", we wouldn't have this really complex syndrome that has so many intertwining factors that make it to where they attach to it so intensely. So if they could "just eat", then they don't have anorexia. The nature of anorexia is they are unable to eat. So if they're unable to eat, how can they "just eat"?
What is the relapse rate for anorexics?
I think what statistics show to us is it that when people go through treatment 60% of people recover fairly well, there's a 20% group that is a relapsing, doing well group and then there's another 20% that seem to remain ill. So when we look at the relapse percentages we probably see maybe about 40% that tend to relapse so statistically it's a fairly large group and I think the relapses occur as a result of discomfort with body. So that's the reason why treatment has to be sort of so long and progressive because when you're re-feeding the person back to health, imagine how fat they're going to be feeling for a good chunk of their life at that point; and until they begin to see the value of how their life is different as a result of the eating disorder not controlling them, when they see that their life is actually better off without the eating disorder, then you can cross over that cast of them being able to see that gosh I think I'm going to be okay at this weight that I'm at. My life could be okay, and I don't have to hold on to those skinny jeans I've been keeping in my closet the last four years.
How can an anorexic prevent a relapse?
It's very important for her to remain connected with her treatment team, and for her to only finish up therapy with everybody's agreement about how she's done with her recovery process. Often girls with anorexia, or even boys with anorexia, think that now that they've got the weight on, that they're recovered. However, the real work is after the weight begins to stabilize. It is important for them not to be impatient with the journey that they're on.
At what point is someone considered recovered from anorexia?
You know it's interesting, there's such a debate we have in our field about "am I recovering or am I recovered?" There's a huge debate that goes on in the field and it's interesting because there are many people who are recovered who will say "I am always going to be recovering because that little beast, that what we call "Ed", in the back of our mind can talk to me at any given time. Ed could talk to me today, Ed could talk to me ten years from now. I always feel like he's sitting there lurking in the shadows waiting for that stressful time to show up in my life, and then he's going to pop his ugly head up again." I mean people will say that. So I think that, and there are many people who will say "you know, I got done, I got recovered, I would never go back to that, even I've had the worst stresses I could ever have, but no thoughts came to my mind about restricting." So I think you can have a good percentage of people for whom you know, the Ed is completely a thing of the past, and there are some for whom, you know, there kind of remains a little lingering voice in the back of their mind. It's very individual.
Can anorexia be cured?
I believe it can. I really believe anorexia can be cured. It can be fully cured. I think that good, solid, early aggressive intervention can really cure it for good.