Eating Disorders Coping With Anorexia By Julia Childs Heyl Julia Childs Heyl Julia Childs Heyl is a clinical social worker who focuses on mental health disparities, the healing of generational trauma, and depth psychotherapy. Learn about our editorial process Published on July 26, 2022 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Rachel Goldman, PhD, FTOS Medically reviewed by Rachel Goldman, PhD, FTOS Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Rachel Goldman, PhD FTOS, is a licensed psychologist, clinical assistant professor, speaker, wellness expert specializing in eating behaviors, stress management, and health behavior change. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print SDI Productions / Getty Images Table of Contents View All Table of Contents Emotional Physical Social Resources & Organizations Caregiving & Helping Others 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. History of Eating Disorders 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. Why CBT Is Usually Suggested for Eating Disorders 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. What Are Compensatory Behaviors in People with Eating Disorders? 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. Can Anorexia Nervosa Affect People of Higher Weights? 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. The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) has ample options for help. They have a support line, a screening tool to determine if an eating disorder is possibly present, and information to learn more about anorexia. Project HEAL is an organization that focuses on removing barriers to receiving care for eating disorders. This is done through programs that focus on supporting folks using insurance to fund their care, cash assistance for those unable to fund treatment, and placing folks in treatment centers that offer free and sliding scale services. F.E.A.S.T. focuses on supporting caregivers of those experiencing eating disorders through education and actionable tips. Dysphagia as a Symptom of Anorexia 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. 11 Do's and Dont's for Recovering From 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. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Eating disorders. Espeset EMS, Gulliksen KS, Nordbø RHS, Skårderud F, Holte A. Fluctuations of body images in anorexia nervosa: patients’ perception of contextual triggers: body image fluctuations. Clin Psychol Psychother. 2012;19(6):518-530. doi: 10.1002/cpp.760 Gregertsen EC, Mandy W, Serpell L. The egosyntonic nature of anorexia: an impediment to recovery in anorexia nervosa treatment. Front Psychol. 2017;0. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.02273 Mittnacht AM, Bulik CM. Best nutrition counseling practices for the treatment of anorexia nervosa: A Delphi study: Nutrition Counseling for Anorexia Nervosa. Int J Eat Disord. 2015;48(1):111-122. doi: 10.1002/eat.22319 Barthels F, Meyer F, Huber T, Pietrowsky R. Orthorexic eating behaviour as a coping strategy in patients with anorexia nervosa. Eat Weight Disord. 2017;22(2):269-276. doi: 10.1007/s40519-016-0329-x Koven NS, Abry AW. The clinical basis of orthorexia nervosa: emerging perspectives. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2015;11:385-394. doi: 10.2147/NDT.S61665 Linville D, Brown T, Sturm K, McDougal T. Eating disorders and social support: perspectives of recovered individuals. Eat Disord. 2012;20(3):216-231. doi: 10.1080/10640266.2012.668480 Cardi V, Mallorqui-Bague N, Albano G, Monteleone AM, Fernandez-Aranda F, Treasure J. Social difficulties as risk and maintaining factors in anorexia nervosa: a mixed-method investigation. Front Psychiatry. 2018;0. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00012 By Julia Childs Heyl Julia Childs Heyl, MSW, is a clinical social worker and writer. As a writer, she focuses on mental health disparities and uses critical race theory as her preferred theoretical framework. In her clinical work, she specializes in treating people of color experiencing anxiety, depression, and trauma through depth therapy and EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) trauma therapy. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist for Eating Disorders Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.