Castlewood Eating Disorder Treatment Center Blog

Stages of Change & the Key to Avoiding Eating Disorder Relapse

The psychological science behind the phenomenon of change can be used to effectively treat those with eating disorders. Change doesn’t happen overnight. More like a serpentine path than one that moves in a sharply linear manner, the recovery process from an eating disorder involves three primary stages of behavioral change. By successfully making behavioral changes, it is easier to accept and move beyond a single slip or lapse in the recovery process that may lead to a full relapse. Some researchers view the three primary phases of behavioral change in eating disorder recovery as:
  • Motivation and commitment
  • Early change
  • Maintenance
Motivation and commitment to change should not always be assumed to be present when a person begins treatment. Many clients arrive at Castlewood under duress from friends or family. Or they may be verbally acknowledging change and yet deeply fearful of no longer having the eating disorder to help control underlying issues, such as painful emotions. During residential treatment, when monitored by a trained—and very empathic—clinical team, this difficult and challenging transition is closely supported. Residential treatment allows for motivation and commitment to be developed in a supportive environment. Transitioning through higher levels of care means professional fostering of the first two phases of behavioral change. But it is the final phase that is perhaps most important to avoiding relapse and keeping recovery going long term.

Maintenance Helps Prevent Eating Disorder Relapse

When a person moves into the third phase of behavioral change, this is where the rubber meets the recovery road. Some eating disorder professionals equate maintenance with having a relapse plan. There is certainly merit in this, but what maintenance means is actually two-fold:
  • keeping the new healthy behaviors going each day
  • avoiding/managing problem areas that supported eating disorders in the past
Recovery from an eating disorder also means that each client and family is aware that relapse is possible in the future. Maintenance of changed behaviors is one way to combat, and recognize early or potential eating disorder relapse, during life’s natural challenges and stressors. Keep the conversation going by commenting here, and then sharing your personal affirmations on Instagram using hashtag #WhatIsRecovery. Your affirmation may be what someone else is seeking as a guide in their own recovery!