For recovery, one must ultimately be willing to go through treatment because they want it for themselves. This doesn’t mean that loved ones should not be supporting treatment, encouraging treatment, and at times even demanding treatment. But for true recovery, it will be necessary at some point during treatment that the person struggling with an eating disorder find it within themselves to want to find recovery.
Many people in my office often state that they only reason they are in treatment is because they are made to come, or that they are doing for another person for one reason or another. They may also state that if it was up-to-them, then they would choose to live with their eating disorder. Simultaneously, they can feel that if it was possible for the ED to be gone with the tough of a magic wand, that they would choose to be free of ED. When this occurs, it becomes a priority that the individual’s therapist and treatment team be aware of this ambivalence about the ED and the treatment and help the patient find a way to look at recovery as something for themselves and not for others. After all, recovery is about freedom for the distress that takes place in the ED suffer’s head. Sure, family and loved ones may feel a sense of relief and worry, but that is not what recovery is about. It is about the individual’s ability to have a clear mind that can better focus on what’s important in life and better problem solve around life’s obstacles and disappointments while not taking it out on themselves.
To proceed with treatment as if one is doing it for another can impede progress and lead to setbacks in treatment. At times there can be a natural resistance to want recovery secondary to a resistance towards an individual who is “making” the person go to treatment. When one is not in treatment for there own reasons, a power struggle may take place and ED usually wins. Another reason, among many, may be that recovery for the self may appear to be attached to additional obligations or responsibilities or expectations that the individual is not ready for. For reasons such as these, it is the primary therapist’s job to help the patient work through these issues as treatment proceeds. It is the patient’s job to be as open, honest and possible about these type of situations. While it is true that ED recovery can bring benefits to their family, their children, their spouse, and their friends, but the real reason this will ever happen is because the ED suffer wants to build those relationships for themselves as well as others, or at least find a way to better cope with the stressors in those relationships.
The back-and-forth thinking in a suffer’s mind about why they are in recovery, for themselves or for others, is a common process in treatment. It presents a struggle both for the patient and for the treatment team. The best approach to handling this is consistent monitoring of the thought processes throughout treatment and reassurance and support through the times when one feels like giving-up with treatment. Even if you, the reader, right now feels as if you’re only going to treatment for others, I would ask you to ask yourself, “how can I want recovery for myself?” Recovery is really for you, wether you have support or not for your treatment, it is still for you.