Eating Disorders and the Stages of Change and Recovery
There are major misconceptions regarding eating disorders in society. For people unfamiliar with the condition, it doesn’t appear to be anything more than a personal issue that needs to be worked out. However, that accusation is dangerous and simply wrong. Eating disorders are clinical diseases that require a careful diagnosis and targeted treatment. Whether you are suffering from an eating disorder and need help or know someone with an eating disorder and need to understand what the recovery process loos like, it’s first important to recognize the stages of change.
The Five Stages of Change
Before healing can take place, a person suffering from the disorder must move through the five stages of the change and recovery process. Let’s briefly analyze each stage and determine what they mean for you and your loved ones.
- Pre-Contemplation stage. The first stage is characterized by a personal blindness to the issue at hand. The person doesn’t believe there is a problem, even when friends and loved ones continue to notice things like restrictive eating habits, binging, and a preoccupation with weight and size. In most cases, people in this stage become defensive and agitated when approached about their condition.
- Contemplation stage. The contemplation stage is a major breakthrough from the initial phase. At this point, the individual is willing to admit there is an issue. While the person is willing to receive help, they likely need assistance and are quite fearful of change. This is a vulnerable stage and must be gently approached in a calculated manner.
- Preparation stage. When the individual is finally ready to change but uncertain of how, they are officially in the preparation stage. During this phase, the individual is taught coping skills and learns to identify triggers and potential barriers. During this time, an eating disorder treatment team will develop a tangible plan of action for current and potential issues.
- Action stage. The action stage is the first period of time in which the individual is actually willing and able to confront the eating disorder. The key during this phase is for the individual to trust the treatment plan.
- Maintenance stage. The final stage, the maintenance stage, begins after the individual has experienced a prolonged period of success without relapse. This stage can continue indefinitely and involves revisiting the initial plan of action and reassessing any potential triggers or new barriers.
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Recovering from an Eating Disorder
If you suffer from an eating disorder, the most important step you can possibly take is to move from pre-contemplation to contemplation. Once you are willing to admit there is an issue, you can begin to surround yourself with individuals who can help you succeed. Over time, your willingness will be matched by an ability to recover – change will come.