Coping With Anorexia

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Being diagnosed with anorexia is life-changing. Anorexia is an eating disorder marked by restrictive eating that results in low body weight, a fear of gaining weight, a distorted body image, and mental anguish.

There can be both relief and despair in receiving this diagnosis. The relief can be from knowing that there is a reason why you’re experiencing this and that there are options for recovery. The despair can come from feeling overwhelmed by the road to health that lies ahead. Both are completely normal feelings. 

You may be the loved one of someone grappling with a new diagnosis of anorexia. You may not understand their healing process or are seeking support for yourself as you navigate the journey of supporting them. That is entirely normal, and learning about what your loved one is experiencing and ways for you to stay supported are essential. 

This article will discuss coping with anorexia in all ways, from emotional, physical, and social to resources and how to help a loved one who is healing from this disorder

Emotional

Receiving a diagnosis of an eating disorder can bring up a lot of complex feelings. Frequently, restricting food is a way of coping with challenging emotions, and it may feel terrifying to consider having this way of coping taken away. However, this is normal and can dissipate as your healing progresses. 

Emotional triggers can include seeing photos or reflections of yourself, perceiving reactions others have to your physical appearance, and reflecting on how your body looked in the past. Remaining aware of these triggers can help you minimize your exposure to them.

It can be common to experience ambivalence regarding anorexia recovery. There may be a part of you that wants to get better, but also a part of you that fears how your mind, body, and life will change as you heal.

If this ambivalence sounds familiar, bring it up with a mental health professional. They can support you in navigating the unknown, developing healthier thought processes, and even direct you towards peer support.  

Physical

Anorexia is a disorder that significantly impacts your body image. Therefore, figuring out your relationship between food and exercise can be particularly challenging. Nutritional counseling may be advised as part of the recovery process, but studies show that for the counseling to be effective, it must be individualized for each person.  

Something to be aware of is the potential of developing orthorexic behavior to cope with the recovery process. Orthorexia is an eating disorder identified by an obsession with healthy eating habits. While learning healthy eating habits is an integral part of recovering from anorexia, it is common for those in recovery to begin transferring some of the behaviors from anorexia to an obsession with eating healthy.

This is because these eating behaviors don’t only account for the types of foods consumed. It also encompasses an obsession with the portions of foods consumed, fad diets, and rituals around eating. 

If you’re noticing that you’re still experiencing obsessive thoughts around food, even if they’re now centered around healthy foods, consult about this with your mental health provider. They will be able to provide you with coping tools that provide relief, not further emotional pain. 

Social 

You’re never alone. Studies show that support amongst others is critical when recovering from anorexia. In fact, social difficulties are documented as a barrier to anorexia recovery, underscoring the importance of social support.

Seeking out support groups can be incredibly helpful. The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders is an organization that offers free virtual peer-led support groups. 

Group therapy can also be beneficial. The best way to find a therapy group is to reach out to your mental health professional for a referral. You can also contact Eating Disorder Hope which is a website with eating disorder treatment centers listed by state. 

Resources & Organizations

It can feel extraordinarily daunting to consider where to turn for support. Luckily, various organizations exist to support those recovering from an eating disorder. 

Caregiving & Helping Others

Loving someone with an eating disorder can be painful. While providing care to the person in your life suffering from this disorder is important, giving yourself that same support is equally important.

Consider reaching out to a licensed psychotherapist. Not only can they help you understand this disease better, but they can also equip you with coping tools when struggling with caregiving duties.

Furthermore, any of the aforementioned organizations can be of support in connecting you with advocacy efforts should you want to join the fight to end the stigma around eating disorders.

A Word From Verywell

If you or a loved one is coping with anorexia, you likely know just how difficult it can be. But remember, you are not alone. There is tons of information available and many resources that can help someone cope with this eating disorder. Seeking help is crucial—and early treatment is linked with better outcomes. It can feel intimidating to take that first step of asking for help, but once you do, you are already on your way to recovery.

8 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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