Castlewood Eating Disorder Treatment Center Blog

Research Looks at What Life Events May Predict Relapse

Preventing eating disorder relapse means understanding what the triggers of slips and relapses are for someone in recovery from an eating disorder. While it would be easy to say “whatever it was in the past,” a study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders points out that this may not be the case Relapse prevention tools in recovery often focus very specifically on the problems and underlying issues that came to light during treatment. But what if there are common stressors that will likely appear in the future, that weren’t triggers in the past? Knowing these would be a bit like having relapse x-ray vision.

Stressful Life Events

This study looked at group of women who were diagnosed with both EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified) and BED (binge eating disorder). Each participant was in recovery and was followed for a total of 72 months during the research project. “Recovery” in this study was termed “remission.”  Stressful life events were assessed, and any slips or ultimate relapses back into the disordered eating behaviors were examined. Some research controls were put into place to account for the length of the eating disorder and any associated mental health issues, but overall there were two areas that identified as powerful relapse triggers for women in remission:
  • Higher work stress
  • Increased social stress
These are somewhat vague, or at least not completely subcategorized. So where is the value? As relapse warning signs. Being aware of slow escalations in stress at work or in the social areas of life is highly beneficial. A kind of eating disorder early warning system! Asking for help, or pulling out some solid relapse prevention tools, is just good recovery business! Comments? Personal experiences with ways you’ve found to recognize signs of early relapse? Share them! Castlewood wants to hear!