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Home ~ My recovery journey ~ Recovery and relapse

Recovery and relapse

Home ~ My recovery journey ~ Recovery and relapse

This page contains information on what ongoing recovery from an eating disorder looks like. It provides information on relapse, self-help and personal stories of recovery.

What is recovery?

The term ‘recovery’ means different things to different people. For some people, recovery means that they never have another eating disorder thought again. For others, the thoughts may never completely go away, but they can manage how ‘loud’ they are so that they don’t have an impact on their everyday life.

Recovery is often a deeply personal, unique process. It involves changing your attitudes, values, feelings, goals, behaviours and skills, so that you can live a satisfying, hopeful and fulfilling life.

Just as recovery looks different for everyone, so too does the time it takes to recover. There is no set time to recovery. For a few fortunate people, recovery is quick – a matter of months. For the majority of people, recovery from an eating disorder is a much longer process, perhaps 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.

Recovery and relapse

It’s easy to think of relapse as failure, however relapse is a very useful tool in the discovery of what works for you as an individual and what your triggers for relapsing are. A relapse can enable you to explore what triggered the change in your recovery journey, and how you might adapt your new skills to get back on track with your recovery with your new skills.

Imagine relapse as ‘two steps forward, one step back’.

Each time you slip back a step, it is usually still a step forward from where you started. Looking back on your journey so far is equally as important as taking baby steps forward and setting future goals. A good way to do this, especially when you are fresh from a relapse and may feel like you are getting nowhere fast, is to remember what your thoughts and behaviours were like last Christmas, or your last birthday. Any memorable day will do, as long as you can recall how you felt around food, what your anxieties were leading up to the event, how you managed socially etc. Once you have done this, compare it to now. Are you in the same place or have you in fact, moved forward?

At first, your past thoughts around fear of failure may get in the way. You may feel like recovery is a lost cause because you regressed. This is a vital time in the recovery process, and we urge you to look for the things that moved you forward (they obviously worked) and see what changed to make them less effective.

Use your support networks to brainstorm alternative outcomes to manage similar triggers in the future. Each time you make the choice to breakdown the unhelpful beliefs around ‘failure’, and instead assess the situation in terms of ‘what is working for me or what has worked for me’, you take one more step forward to making this way of thinking the new ‘normal’ for you.

Embrace relapse. After all, how do you know what your triggers are if you don’t experience them, and how do you find the skills to manage these triggers without discovering them first?


Carol's story - putting binge eating behind me

"The binge itself, followed by the preoccupation with shame, guilt and planning the next diet, managed to distract me from avoiding my uncomfortable emotions for about 15 years. I was stunned at how obvious it all was!”

Read Carol's story

Self help

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.

Self-help is an important way to keep your recovery on track. Below we have outline some key factors that can be used to support self-help during 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 your recovery, it is important to learn 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 you can gain better control over your mental health. There are lots of ways you can educate yourself – by speaking with health professionals, attending workshops and support groups, as well as reading books, articles and newsletters.

The internet can be a great source of education when it comes to eating disorders, but it often takes self-care and boundary setting to not get carried away with information overload. You may also find information that reinforces eating disorder behaviour. Please exercise caution when online and using social media, and practice digital self-care by unfollowing and switching off.

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.


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 mental health. Being ready and willing to take on responsibility for your own journey towards health and well-being is a fundamental part of recovery.


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

Recovery stories

Many people who are going through an eating disorder have never (knowingly) met someone who has recovered from an eating disorder. Reading and listening to other people’s stories of recovery can give you the hope and reassurance that recovery is possible.

EDV’s Stories of Recovery library

EDV have a collection of recovery stories available on our website. All stories have been written by people in the community who have experienced and recovered from an eating disorder.

Stories of Recovery
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