Eating Disorders

Triggers: How to Deal in Recovery


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Upon returning home from an eating disorder treatment facility last year, my beyond-ecstatic parents wanted to treat me and celebrate all of the hard work I had done – by taking me out to dinner. This sounds like a perfectly acceptable request. I had faced my fear involving foods and, on the outside, my eating habits had to return to normal.

On the inside, however, that was not the case at all.

Instantly, my mind began racing. What if I don’t eat enough in front of them? What if I feel too overwhelmed to eat at all? What if I see someone I know and they notice my weight gain? What if they want to talk about my feelings? What if they don’t ask if I’m doing okay?

Before I knew it, my mind entered an endless cycle of self-doubt and my trigger red flags were flying high.

Triggers are everywhere. Often times, they come out of nowhere and catch us off guard. There have been many times when I found myself wanting nothing more than to crawl back into bed and avoid everything that made me feel uncomfortable. Leave me alone; all I need is my meal plan and nothing to distract me from it.

While I was still in treatment, triggers were minimized by the staff and my fellow patients, but entering back into the real world can feel as intimidating as learning a second language. Without the comfort of being in safe environment, I could find triggers almost everywhere I went.


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Avoiding life while still new in recovery might seem like the solution at times, but trust me; it’s not the best option.

Recovery is all about learning how to live your life again and, in order to do so, learning to deal with triggers is one of the major components.

There have been a few different techniques that I have found helpful when it comes to dealing with triggers.

First, before you even leave treatment or begin recovering on your own, it is extremely important to identify objects, people, and situations that bring out a sense of discomfort. By doing this, you can better prepare yourself and sort out certain triggers that might be more difficult to deal with.

Have a plan. Chances are, the more prepared you are, the more confident you will be.

Once you have your list of triggers made, divide them up into categories: things that are completely unbearable, situations that are a bit scary, and – most importantly at first – finding the triggers that seem manageable. As long as you continue to challenge yourself when you feel ready, there is no shame in starting slow. Slow and steady wins the race every time.

It’s also important to learn how to stop that downward spiral of negative thoughts – also know as the “snowball effect.”

If you are able to identify the things that are triggering, you have already started this process. Noticing your negative thoughts gives you an opportunity to talk back to your eating disorder. Think of a few phrases ahead of time; for example, “this too shall pass,” “I am worth recovery,” “feelings cannot hurt me,” or anything else that helps ease those disordered thoughts. As you feel the triggers begin to take over your thoughts, repeat one of your go-to phrases as many times as needed until that disordered voice begins to fade away.

Just like changing your thinking, learning new coping skills can be beneficial. Calling a friend, getting out crayons and a coloring book, or watching a good movie can all help relieve some of the stress caused by triggering situations. Don’t be afraid to take care of yourself; be selfish! Doing what is right for your recovery should come first.

Triggers will always be there. Thankfully, we have a choice: letting these triggers run our lives or, with time and lots of practice, learning to deal with them in a healthy manner.

Take baby steps at first, and always remember to give yourself credit for the progress you make, no matter how small it might feel.

The next time you are feeling triggered, stop, repeat your affirmations, and make the decision to choose life over your disordered patterns. Trust me, it is totally worth it.

After Kelsi recovered from an eating disorder, she realized addiction is her core issue. Recovering from one disorder does not necessarily mean you are healed from another. Full recovery no matter what it might be takes time. As an addiction writer, Kelsi hopes to bring awareness to this taboo issue as it is often embarrassing for her and society to talk about. Join Kelsi on her recovery journey as she de-stigmatizes the shame involved in addiction.

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