STAGES OF AN EATING DISORDER:
Although it may not be obvious, eating disorders occur in stages. The stages slightly vary with each individual recovery process, but the basic outlines remain the same: pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance. Potential relapse can be added as a 6th stage, however, not everyone who is in the recovery process needs to undergo a relapse.
Stage 1: Pre-Contemplation
In this stage, an individual will typically be in denial that there is a problem present. Even though others may have identified symptoms, the person undergoing the disorder will experience little to no awareness of the problems caused by their eating disorder. The individual will dedicate most of their time controlling their eating patterns. In addition, the person will most likely not expose or admit to their behavior influenced by their disorder and can display anger or frustration when addressed. This is mainly because the disorder acts a way to control strong, raw emotions. Therefore, causing the person to be unwilling or afraid of getting rid of those behaviors.
Stage 2: Contemplation
An individual with an eating disorder at this stage will become aware of their behaviors and problems; at this point, they may consider changing some of their negative habits. In addition, their attitude can fluctuate and they will consider maintaining their disordered habits or choosing recovery. This causes a level of difficulty and confusion for both the individual and their loved ones.
Stage 3: Preparation and Determination
In the preparation and determination stage, the person has come to the conclusion that they want to change their disordered behavior and is preparing to make changes in order to pursue recovery. This stage can be highly stressful and full of anxiety for the person and their supporters. Most likely, help from a doctor, clinician or eating disorder professional is needed.
Stage 4: Action
In this stage, the individual with an eating disorder will be taking the first steps toward recovery and is determined to go through the recovery process. This stage requires an immense amount of support and encouragement in order for the person to get through this stage. However, the individual can move backward and forwards throughout this stage; leading to relapses which are common in recovery.
Stage 5: Maintenance
A person at this stage will have changed their disordered behavior and will start to focus on healthier habits. They are also learning how to live life without an eating disorder. The maintenance stage takes time and commitment from both the person and their support team. A person can still relapse at this stage, but full recovery from relapses and recurrences is possible.