It’s National Eating Disorder Awareness (NEDA) Week in the US, and I’m not as well-equipped to write about it as I’d like to be, but it’s worth highlighting whether I feel prepared or not.
Eating disorders impact thousands of young people in the United States every year. They’re also hugely misunderstood, often painted as being about wanting to be thin, as opposed to wanting control or wanting approval, which is what they’re more often really about. As a result, eating disorders get characterized by simply some of their symptoms-~-over-eating, over-exercising, counting calories-~-instead of being seen holistically for the psychological struggle that they are. What this also means is that recovery is more than just a battle to consume food; it can also be a battle to face the underlying issues that push people to develop eating disorders, and that can be incredibly difficult.
If you are struggling with an eating disorder, or you think you may have an eating disorder, you should know that you are not alone. If you want to be screened, the National Eating Disorders Assocation has an online screening tool to help assess your behaviors. They also have some resources available through their website, including a directory of support groups and an online chat if you need to talk. You can also find an additional director of support groups here. MentorConnect is an online mentorship program that pairs people going through recovery with individuals who have made it through recovery; I have personally heard great thing from people who have used MentorConnect as a support system during recovery.
There are also any number of tools out there to support recovery, and while a therapist can do a better job of helping you to assemble a toolkit that is right for you, there are a number of resources out there even if you have not yet taken steps to find formal therapy or a formal recovery program. Recovery Record is designed to help individuals struggling with anorexia, bulemia, and binge eating disorder, but has been used positively by individuals with other disordered eating behaviors as well; it helps track both the foods you eat and the moods you associate with them to track patterns in your recovery, and lets you connect with other users for support. The app is also designed to supplement therapy and allow clinicians to monitor progress. Rise Up + Recover has similar food and mood tracking tools, and also includes a coping skills menu to provide additional support.
Given that eating disorders interact with mental health as well as physical health, there are a few additional resources that might be worth taking a look at. SAM is an app that can help you monitor your anxiety, track your triggers, and develop coping strategies. 7 Cups of Tea is a free app that can connect you with a trained volunteer who can provide short-term support and counseling; it can be helpful if you’re feeling stressed or anxious and need someone to talk to. MindShift is designed to help you learn to manage stress, identify triggers, and reign in anxiety. PTSD Coach is specifically designed to allow individuals who experience symptoms of post-traummatic stress to identify and cope with the ways PTSD can impact them; remember, eating disorders can be linked to post-traummatic stress, so it’s worth having a plan to deal with both if you suffer from both.
Remember, an app is not a substitute for a clinician, a nutritionist, or any other support network. Recovery can be difficult and it can take time, and it’s always best to do it with as much support and professional guidance as possible. If you aren’t sure where to start, many of the support groups included in the directories mentioned above are led by therapists who may be able to provide guidance.
Also remember this: the road to recovery is long and it is far from a straight line. If you are struggling with reocvery, fear you may be relapsing, or simply need support, reach out. Recovery may feel difficult, but it is possible, so give yourself the time, the space, and the support you need to get there.