Anorexia Nostalgia: Why Support Is Most Needed Mid-Recovery

a girl reaching for a piece of pea on the plateThe road to recovery from anorexia is long and tiring. In fact, the slow, agonizing process makes many patients, at one point during the recovery, crave for days when they weren’t struggling to get out of the disorder.

Sufferers call this condition anorexia nostalgia. If you have a loved one recovering from the eating disorder (ED), maintaining a close relationship with him or her is important even when you no longer see the symptoms. Recovery is a life-long process, after all.

The ‘Good Old Days’

According to medical experts in this field, control is at the center of anorexia patients’ experiences. Studies show that genetics and traumatic events in life are often the triggers. It’s natural for patients to feel that they don’t have control over what’s happening inside their bodies and what transpired outside. As a survival response, they try to gain a semblance of control in one aspect of their life: eating.

EDCare notes that when patients start their anorexia treatment, they may find themselves losing control again. They start remembering the ‘good old days,’ probably feeling a little guilty or shameful for losing grasp. For the average person, it sounds absurd, but for anorexics, it makes perfect sense.

This is the reason anorexia treatment is focused on changing and challenging negative thought patterns. Psychologists use cognitive behavioral therapy for patients with eating disorders.

Decline of Support

Anorexia nostalgia usually happens in the middle phase of recovery, at the time when moral and social support decline. At the beginning of recovery, most patients feel extra loved and affirmed by their family and friends.

But as days go by, when the weight of the situation returns to normal and the anorexia behavior seems to fade, support plummets. Patients start to face the monsters of the disease alone at this point; thus, the longing for their ED days.

Loved ones have a responsibility of staying connected with ED sufferers. When remembering those days makes your anorexic child happy, that’s your cue to remind them of other reasons to be happy. Bring attention to their hair, which is now more lustrous, and their body going stronger as they resume healthy eating habits. Or mention the fact that they’re less preoccupied now with food and numbers.

In times when anorexia patients feel helpless and hopeless in their recovery, you have to remind them of the beautiful things that will come out of it. Recognize that there are ups-and-downs along the way. Support your loved one through these challenges, especially when they long for the ‘good old days.’