The Signs of an Eating Disorders Relapse

Perhaps you're wondering how you can tell if you are even relapsing or not. Here's a list of signs to look for. If you, or someone you know is experiencing these signs of an eating disorders relapse, then it's time to get help.

  • Thoughts continue to turn back to weight and food.
  • Increasing need to be in control over many things.
  • Perfectionistic thinking returns or becomes stronger.
  • Feelings of needing to escape from stress and problems.
  • Feeling hopelessness and/or increasing sadness.
  • Increasing belief that you can only be happy if you are thin.
  • Increasing belief that you are out of control if you are not on a "diet."
  • Dishonesty with treatment coordinators and/or friends and family.
  • Looking in mirrors often.
  • Weighing yourself more and determining whether today will be good or bad depending on what shows up on the scale.
  • Skipping meals, or purging them.
  • Avoiding food and/or get-togethers that involve food.
  • Increasing need to exercise continually.
  • Thoughts of suicide.
  • Feeling guilt after eating.
  • Feeling the need to isolate yourself from those around you.
  • Feeling "fat" even though people say otherwise.

Here are the signs of an eating disorders relapse. They can occur even during recovery from an eating disorder.If you are currently going through an eating disorders relapse, sit down and try to figure out how you were feeling before the relapse occurred and what was going on at the time that could have triggered you. Make a plan of how you can deal with the trigger in better ways the next time it comes around. Recognize how you are feeling right now and how you can change those feelings through helpful reactions. Know that you can talk to someone about what is going on in your life, whether it involves the relapse or things that triggered the relapse.

Most importantly, realize that you do not need to be hard on yourself for this relapse! Guilt and beating yourself up for slipping gets you nowhere and is not needed. All beating yourself up over this will do is make you feel bad and will give even more fuel to the eating disorder to use against you. You are not a failure. Recovery from an eating disorder is not meant to be perfect, and you are not meant to be perfect. There is no shame with having an eating disorder or a relapse. I cannot stress enough that when a relapse occurs it does not mean that you have "failed once again," but what it does mean is that there are feelings inside that still need to be dealt with.

When all we wanted was the dream
to have and to hold that precious little thing
like every generation yields
the newborn hope unjaded by their years-Sarah McLachlan

Once again, relapses - they can and will happen during recovery from an eating disorder. This doesn't mean that you shouldn't try at all or that you are a failure if you relapse. Recovery takes a long, long time to reach and it involves dealing with a lot of painful issues that can leave you susceptible to relapsing into old "comforts" like starving or purging. Please, reach out for help if you suspect that you have relapsed or that you are close to doing so, and then recognize what caused you to relapse in the beginning. You deserve help and you deserve to get better, no matter what.

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APA Reference
Staff, H. (2008, December 22). The Signs of an Eating Disorders Relapse, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 22 from

Last Updated: April 18, 2016

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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