For many patients who begin treatment, the journey towards recovery can be an up-and-down, bumpy road. Some patients begin with motivation for recovery, while others begin with apprehension and resistance. At some point, most patients reach a place where they know that they must find recovery for true peace and happiness, however, they may be still struggling with certain eating disorder behaviors and thoughts. During these phases, the “ED voice” may escalate leading to internal feelings of a fear of failing with recovery and simultaneously failing with their eating disorder. It’s a feeling of not being good at recovery or with their eating disorder. These moments are crucial points in the recovery process as the eating disorder will fight for its survival, often making the patient vulnerable to setbacks and relapses.
The common presentation during these periods is for the patient to have sudden increases in extreme anxiety and panic. With panic episodes patients may question their treatment, question if they even have an eating disorder, claim a sudden flight-into-recovery, proclaim they can or just want to “do-it-myself,” and even seek to terminate their entire treatment. However, it is during these periods that treatment is out important. The treatment care providers, family and other support systems must be there to carry the patient through these rough times, encouraging and providing reassurance that the path through the panic and suffering is by finding recovery, not from withdrawing from it. It can be difficult for loved ones to watch the one they care about suffer with the pain and stress of the treatment process and some some may even want to go along with the patient’s request to cut back on the treatment process in order to relieve the short-term suffering of treatment while compromising long-term goals of living without an eating disorder and the mental, social, physical, and medical complications that go with the condition.
By understanding that stress, anxiety, panic and suffering are actually a normal part of the recovery process, all involved can be prepared to encounter these periods and persevere through them with the help of the entire treatment team.