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Teen Eating Disorder Healing (Part One): What Defines Recovery?

Teen Eating Disorder Healing | ParadigmMalibu.com

With regard to teen eating disorders, there are few measures to indicate whether someone is in recovery. Certainly, no longer using laxatives and limiting food intake are obvious indications, but what about recovery from the thought patterns of a teen eating disorder? Do those patterns of thought actually go away? Does one ever really recover, aside from choosing to no longer limit food intake?


This is the question that anyone suffering from addiction, alcoholism to anorexia, must face. A New York Times reporter, Abby Ellin describes how Dr. Dooley-Hash, age 45, developed anorexia at the age of 15 and doubts that she ever fully recovered. Yes, she was able to maintain a healthy weight for many years and even succeeded in her career. She became an emergency room doctor and facilitated saving many lives. However, in 2005, she relapsed and took almost two years off in order to study and heal from the illness of addiction.


Ellis includes in her article the questions Dr. Dooley-Hash asked about the true meaning of recovery:


Does it mean ‘functional’? I’m a physician at a really high-powered institution, and I’ve published in well-respected journals – I’m functional. I don’t think functionality is necessarily a good measure.


Experts say that that recovery is not only the absence of engaging in self-destructive behavior. It is also the participation in productive and life-affirming behaviors. It is also the ability to have healthy relationships, including one with oneself.


That’s the most basic indication of recovery. But as Ellis points out, despite being functional, despite no longer being destructive, what are the true indications of recovery so that relapse no longer happens. What are the measures of recovery that Dr. Dooley-Hash might have been able to focus on earlier in her life so that she could have avoided relapsing in 2005?


According to the FEAST (Families Empowered And Supporting Treatment of Eating Disorders), recovery includes many facets and is possible to achieve. Recovery includes medical and emotional stabilization, weight and nutritional restoration, having a healthy relationship with food and weight, development of coping skills to manage emotions and urges, improved mood, absence of binge eating and compensatory behaviors, use of support, no longer relapsing, and maintaining a continuum of care.


As one might imagine, there are stages to recovery. For instance, in 1983, clinician James Prochaska and others developed a model that outlined six stages of change. It is known in the mental health field as the Trans-Theoretical Model (TTM) and casually as the Stages of Change. The TTM Model, the Stages of Change, is often used to facilitate freeing adolescents (and adults) from addiction, such as an eating disorder. They can be used as a map for transformation.


The following article will include these six stages of change, which identify the levels of ambivalence a teen might have toward finding freedom from the disorder versus staying in denial.




Eating Disorders Glossary – Symptoms and Behavior. Families Empowered And Supporting Treatment of Eating Disorders. Retrieved on May 8, 2014 from: http://glossary.feast-ed.org/2-eating-disorders-symptoms-and-behaviors



By Robert Hunt
If you are reading this on any blog other than Paradigm Malibu or via my RSS Feed, it is stolen content without credit.
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Paradigm Malibu is an adolescent mental health and drug treatment center dedicated to identifying, understanding and properly treating the core issues that impact teens and their families.

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