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What Is Recovery?

The term “recovery” means different things to different people, and can depend on who you speak to. At Eating Disorders Victoria, we believe recovery is a journey, not an end-point.

Recovery involves the development of new meaning and purpose in one’s life as one moves beyond the effects of the eating disorder.

It is a deeply personal, unique process of changing your attitudes, values, feelings, goals, behaviours and skills, so that you can live a satisfying, hopeful, fulfilling life, engaging as fully as possible with your family and the community.

We believe that recovery is possible - for everyone.

Recovery can be a long journey. For many people, self-help is a key part of the road to long-term recovery. Self-help can take many forms including learning to identify triggers for your eating disorder and to take actions to avoid or counteract them, reading and learning about your disorder, learning and applying coping skills, learning about ways to improve your self-esteem, attending support groups and developing a support system to rely on when necessary.


Factors Common To Recovery

Ultimately, because recovery is a unique and personal process, everyone with an eating disorder develops their own understanding of recovery. However, certain concepts or factors are common to recovery.  Some of these are listed below.


Having a sense of hope is the foundation for ongoing recovery from an eating disorder. Even the smallest belief that you can get better, as others have, can fuel the recovery process.


This is the belief that you have power and control over your own life, including control over your illness. Being ready and willing to take on responsibility for your own journey towards health and well-being is a fundamental part of recovery.


Support from peers, family, friends and frequently from health professionals is highly beneficial to recovery from eating disorders.

It is especially beneficial to have multiple sources of support. In addition to support from individuals, participation in support groups can be an important tool for recovery.

People who are challenged by an eating disorder frequently report that being able to interact with others who understand their feelings and experiences is the most important ingredient for their recovery.

Many people with eating disorders feel isolated, cut off from former sources of support by their own actions or by the actions of others.  Some have never had much support.  If this is you, then there is great value in gradually forming even one new support – recovery isn’t dependent on having a lot of supports, rather on having good quality support.

You may like to begin by reaching out to just one family member, friend or health professional - someone you feel you can open up to.  Over time you may find it possible to build up your own network of support, ready for when you need it. 


In order to maximise recovery, it is important to learn (from reliable, safe sources) as much as you can about your disorder, your symptoms, best treatment practices and available resources. It’s also important to learn about yourself, including the triggers for your eating disorder, so that your can gain better control over your illness.

There are lots of safe ways you can educate yourself - by speaking with health professionals, attending workshops and support groups, reading books, articles and newsletters, browsing the Internet for safe websites and participating in discussion groups.

While the Internet can be a valuable source of information, you should be aware that some websites contain content which is unhelpful and which may even fuel your disorder, rather than aiding your recovery.  Please exercise caution when visiting websites.  If you are a child or adolescent, please seek assistance from an adult you trust in identifying appropriate websites.

Please note that EDV cannot be held responsible for the content of external websites – while links from the EDV website are provided in good faith, a link to an external website from this website does not imply endorsement of content of that external site.

Meaningful Activity

Meaningful activity is a vital part of life; for many it is what gives them a sense of purpose and value. What a person does with their life will influence their confidence, self-esteem, self-worth and feelings of connectedness with the world around them.  People recover more quickly and more fully when they are able to resume school, work, higher education, family duties and/or other meaningful activity.

How Long Will Recovery Take?

This is one of the most frequently asked questions – and it’s one of the hardest ones to answer.  Because eating disorders are complex and variable conditions, and because everyone’s journey of recovery is individual and unique, there truly is no set time to recovery.   For a few fortunate people, recovery is quick – a matter of months. For the majority, recovery from an eating disorder is a much longer process, for some taking years.  

There is good evidence that generally, the quicker you start treatment for an eating disorder, the shorter the time will be until you are recovered.  However, try to remember that anyone can recover, even if you have been experiencing your eating disorder for a long time.

It is important to remember that recovery is a journey, not an end-point.  You may find it   more helpful to focus on the process of recovery than to think about if or when you will ‘get there’ – especially as you may not know where ‘there’ is.  

Recovery can be a rocky road, and the journey is often interrupted by ‘set-backs’ or relapses on the way (ie return of disordered eating behaviours and/or unhelpful thoughts).   Try to understand that, while frustrating, these too are a normal part of the recovery process.  A relapse may set you back a step or two, but as long as you are focused on recovery, you are still making progress.  People can, and do, get past their relapses, and carry on recovering. For more information on relapses, click here.

Some people never feel ‘fully recovered’ from an eating disorder, but find that they can regain a satisfying, hopeful, fulfilling life while still ‘recovering’.  For these people, the process of recovery is ongoing.  But many others do fully recover.  Just as the journey is individual and unique, so is the concept of ‘full recovery’.  Only you will know when you are fully recovered.

Treatment Options

Understanding the treatment options for a person with an eating disorder can be a bit bewildering.  People with eating disorders may be treated in different settings (eg GP, community health centre, public or private hospital, private psychologist or psychiatrist). And there are different levels of care depending on the type of eating disorder and perceived severity of the problem. 

For further information on treatment options, settings, types and expectations please click here.

EDV Helpfinder & Treatment Database

Eating Disorders Victoria provides information on all public and private treatment services in Victoria, as well as a database of health professionals who have registered with us as having an interest or specialising in eating disorders.

It is important to know all your options.

To download the latest listing of public and private treatment services in Victoria click here.

Last revision date: Thursday, 26 September 2013 14:22

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