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Recovering from anorexia can be challenging, from the first step of acknowledging the problem to maintaining progress after leaving a treatment center. If a person is hospitalized or undergoing in-patient treatment for anorexia, his or her doctors will guide that portion of the recovery process. Once released, staying in touch with that support system can help a person avoid falling back into old habits, a particular challenge for those who typically have the disease ingrained in every aspect of their life. Getting rid of possible triggers, such as fashion magazines and unhealthy relationships, should be the next step. A particular challenge for anorexia recovery is the need to eat; to help balance that need with the anorexic's desire not to eat, an anorexic should only keep healthy food in the house and gradually increase the number of calories in his or her diet.
A person who spends time in a hospital or treatment center during the recovery process is likely to have developed relationships with a team of doctors, psychiatrists and nutritionists. Such people are usually accessible to recovering anorexics even after leaving the center, so their contact information should be kept for years afterward. Those who decide not to get help from a treatment center are still encouraged to find support somewhere, whether through a psychiatrist or an anorexia support group. Many people recovering from an eating disorder find it helpful to use both types of support, because psychiatry experts often provide a different perspective on the disease than those who also are recovering from anorexia.
After ensuring access to plenty of support, a recovering anorexic should eliminate some factors from his or her life. Anything that encourages a person to return to the anorexic lifestyle should be thrown out or ignored. For example, fashion magazines often feature uncommonly thin women to whom anorexic females may compare themselves unfavorably. Television shows that feature models or celebrities should also be avoided. Finally, a person recovering from anorexia should get rid of relationships — including friends and family members — that thwart their efforts to treat the disease.
By necessity, food will always be a part of an anorexic's life, which is why a person recovering from anorexia should learn healthy eating habits. Fruits, vegetables and low-fat items should replace sugary processed foods that have no nutritional value; this will help ensure that weight is gained in a healthy way. A person recovering from anorexia often is not used to eating sufficient calories, so caloric intake should be increased slowly to avoid a sick feeling after eating. Being unaccustomed to eating large portions, a person recovering from anorexia also should put his or her food on a large plate to make it look like a smaller portion; putting it on a small plate can cause anxiety by making the portion look larger than it is.
I saw an article online about the use of deep brain stimulation to help anorexics. The story mentioned a girl in Toronto, I think, who had the procedure to help her with her intractable anorexia. No amount of therapy or meds had helped, but apparently this has.
She is working towards a healthy weight, and her depression has also eased.
According to the article, the stimulation is also used in patients with Parkinson's disease, and it has helped. I'm so glad there is another therapy available. Maybe this is an avenue to pursue for all eating disorders. I'm sure there would be many who would volunteer.
All the people I know who have had successful recovery from anorexia have used a 12-Step model to do it. Their after care programs may not be exactly like Alcoholics Anonymous, but most of them have found the only way to deal with their disease is one day at a time, like AA.
Addiction (and anorexia is one form of addiction) is a mental illness, but it's not like a personality disorder, so it can sometimes be treated by behavior modification. I think the 12-Step model works because most anorexics are extremely detail oriented and the 12 Steps give them something to focus on. Plus, the later steps encourage focusing on something besides self. My prayers go out to all who struggle with eating disorders.
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