Today’s guest blogger was a panelist at the Statistics to Solutions co-hosted by Our Young Addicts and Know the Truth in May 2017. She points out the reality of co-occurring disorders in young adults, such as eating disorders and substance use. MWM
As a psychologist specializing in the treatment of eating disorders for the past 13 years, we are seeing more and more individuals in eating disorder treatment programs who suffer from both an eating disorder and a substance use disorder. In fact, we know that between 30-50% of individuals with an eating disorder also struggle with a substance use disorder and vice versa. This includes men and women of all ages and backgrounds-eating disorders and substance use disorders don’t discriminate! Often times the substance use disorder and eating disorder are intimately intertwined and if you try to treat one disorder, the other disorder is likely to get worse. This can certainly complicate treatment and it is important to consider this as you navigate your journey to recovery.
I wrote this piece, “Recipe for Recovery,” a few years ago for eating disorder awareness week. I think it is perfect for not only those struggling with eating disorders but those who may be struggling with a substance use disorder or really any number of mental health disorders. When you see the word eating disorder below, feel free to substitute it with substance use disorder, depression, etc.
When I think about what it takes to recover from an eating disorder, it is really many things working together … it is not just getting treatment, being motivated, or having a good support system.
It actually reminds me more of a recipe. Recipes are something we usually think of when we think about cooking but I would throw out to all of you that we use “recipes” in many areas of our lives. Whether it is getting into college, developing your career, being in a relationship with someone, or parenting a child. These all require several steps or components to be successful.
Webster tells us that the word recipe means:
- A set of instructions for making or preparing something
- A medical prescription or
- A method to attain a desired end
I think this really fits for the journey of recovery, similar to cooking, recovering from an eating disorder takes a cup of this, a dash of that, and a pinch of something else. When you get all of the ingredients in the mix, there is an incredible life of opportunity and experiences waiting for you.
I asked several people that I have worked with over the years about some of their key ingredients to recovery so I could share some of their insights. I wasn’t too surprised to learn that people didn’t feel like it was an isolated thing that got them to recovery but rather several things coming together over time that led them to a life free of their eating disorder.
First, everyone felt like their formal treatment was an important piece. Without that as a foundation, recovery would not have happened.
Another element that people viewed as an important ingredient was willingness. Whether that means trying treatment, doing things that are scary, trying a different treatment approach if things aren’t going well or trying new things in life, willingness played a key role in their recovery. One individual shared: “Maybe you’re not completely 100% on board with getting rid of your eating disorder, and that’s OK, but you have to be willing to learn new things and consider new perspectives on your body, your thoughts, your emotions and the world you live in. I really thought the world was black and white; I either did things wrong or I did them right, and there was only one right way to live your life. Learning about gray areas and the complexities of living life were really beneficial to me.”
Trust was another important item, and it took many different paths. For some it was trusting their treatment providers, for others it was trust in themselves that they could do what they needed to do and it wouldn’t be the end of the world. Others mentioned learning to trust their body-the idea that if we take care of our bodies, our body will take care of itself.
Another significant item that everyone mentioned was trying new things in order to develop a new identity outside of the eating disorder. One individual shared with me “I was a passionless person and didn’t really care about anything except losing weight and doing everything right. When I was physically healthier, it helped me tremendously to care about something outside of myself.”
Related to this, people found that when they developed new interests outside of their eating disorder, it also helped connect them to people, which played a big role in their ability to move beyond the eating disorder.
Patience and priority were two other items. Patience in that getting to recovery often takes people longer than they ever anticipate with twists and turns along the way. Priority in that we all live in a very busy world with a lot going on but figuring out how to prioritize recovery so that it gets the time and attention it needs rather than trying to fit it in around other things.
So today I would encourage all of you to think about what are your key ingredients to recovery? What do you already have and what might you need to add to the mix? No matter where you are along your journey, everyone has some of the ingredients they need to start to build their recipe for recovery.
About the Author:
Heather Gallivan, PsyD, LP, is the Clinical Director at Melrose Center. She joined Melrose in 2004 and has helped eating disorder patients recover and realize their full potential in all levels of care from outpatient to residential treatment. She is a passionate leader and teacher concerning the prevention and treatment of eating disorders, and how societal messages impact our beliefs and attitudes about food, weight, and body image. You may have seen her passion for education and expertise on display in the local media or as a speaker at a state or national conference for healthcare providers. Prior to joining Melrose Center, Dr. Gallivan served 5 years in the Unites States Navy as an active duty psychologist. In addition, she teaches a course on eating disorders at the Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School of Addiction Studies.
Melrose Center heals eating disorders, with locations in St. Louis Park, Maple Grove and St. Paul. Melrose treats all eating disorders in all genders and ages, through outpatient and residential programs. Specialty programming is available for those struggling with an eating disorder and substance abuse. The program includes individual and group programming focused on treating the eating disorder and substance use disorder together by professionals specially trained to work with both conditions. Visit melroseheals.com.
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