Eating Disorder Recovery: Not just Body or Mind

Conditions like anorexia and bulimia have become a focus of great concern in recent years, bringing up issues such as societal standards of beauty and the objectification of women, though eating disorders aren’t necessarily restricted to one gender. Eating disorders also aren’t restricted to illnesses preoccupied with losing weight. Overeating can also be an eating disorder, and there are also eating disorders not otherwise specified (EDNOS).

Eating disorders are considered to be largely due to psychological factors like emotional stress or the pressure to be thin. They are considered to be mental illnesses in which patients may be suffering from things like depression, a distorted body image and unrealistic standards of appearance. Therefore eating disorder recovery is largely psychological, dealing with the underlying cause of unhealthy eating patterns developing in patients. Treatment for eating disorders can consist of therapy, support groups, and self-help. These treatments help patients with eating disorders to realize they have a problem and to address that problem. Eating disorder recovery is possible, but there is also a high chance of relapse. This could be because eating disorder patients can try to change the way that they view themselves, but they can’t change the environmental factors that exacerbate their maladaptive eating behavior. Preventing oneself from falling back into bad habits in general takes a lot of will and effort, which is understandably difficult.

Some people question the effectiveness of standard eating disorder recovery treatments. If treatments like therapy are really helping, why do patients relapse so often? This criticism has given rise to alternative eating disorder recovery techniques that focus solely on the eating patterns of patients. Proponents of these methods believe that the underlying causes of eating disorders are not the issue. Eating disorders are not psychological conditions, but simply eating patterns that have gone awry. Instead of digging into the psychological history of patients, eating disorder treatment should focus on teaching patients so that they can relearn how to eat properly. There is theoretically a lower chance of relapse since eating patterns themselves have been fixed.

While it’s important to address eating behavior patterns themselves, it seems unlikely that there are absolutely no psychological factors involved. After all, there has to be some reason behind why negative eating patterns would develop. Conversely, eating disorder treatment shouldn’t focus solely on what’s going on in patients’ heads. Eating disorder recovery is probably successful when treatments address both psychological and physical factors.