Too many people with chronic eating disorders feel like they run out of options. It often takes quite a bit of time to summon up the courage to look for help and then actually get to an appointment. The shame about the illness and the fear of discussing the disorder—making it real—are overpowering. But after that first difficult step, what’s happens next?
Too often, people end up very frustrated and disappointed. Perhaps they see a clinician without much experience treating people with eating disorders. Perhaps they see someone who shames them for their illness. Perhaps they feel blamed for being sick. Or perhaps they go to treatment for a while and make no progress at all.
If that pattern happens a handful of times over a few years, it’s easy to see why someone would become demoralized and expect that the eating disorder is likely a chronic condition. As time passes and opportunities are lost, a sense of hopelessness grows even larger.
I have seen many people 10-15 years into an eating disorder in this frame of mind, devoid of hope and stuck in a cycle that feels like it will swallow their lives.
I don’t pretend to have all the answers to help these people. Sometimes they need behavioral intervention just to break the eating pattern. Sometimes they need education to understand the difference between their own thoughts and eating disorder thoughts. Sometimes they need someone to believe in them. Sometimes they need to see that love is the antidote to an eating disorder.
Most of all, the one component of treatment that is critical is hope. What these people who have struggled for years without any true progress need is hope. They need to see there is a way to recovery and that people who have been sick for years can fully recover. They need to see that the path may be hard, but someone has an idea of what that path might look like.
My wish for the many people struggling with chronic eating disorders is to know that help does exist for you. Look for the right kind of guidance and maintain hope that wellness and recovery can be in your future.