Why Is Recovery So Scary for People with Eating Disorders?


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Recovery from an eating disorder can be an incredibly daunting process. It can include fear, uncertainty, and doubt. It may be hard to contemplate taking the first steps, let alone think about the long road ahead. We’ll explore why recovery is so scary for those suffering from eating disorders and discuss some strategies to help make it a little less intimidating.

Common Fears Associated with Recovery from an Eating Disorder

Fear can make recovering from an eating disorder feel overwhelming or even paralyzing. Identifying these concerns can help you and the people supporting you better understand why recovery is so scary and how to proceed and get support.

It is common to experience a fear of

  • Gaining weight: You may encounter increased anxiety over the changes happening to your body and body image.
  • Losing your identity: The disorder provides identity and purpose for many individuals suffering from eating disorders. You will have to find out who you are without your eating disorder.
  • Facing your emotions: Eating disorders allow those who struggle with them to numb themselves from feeling emotional pain and past trauma.
  • Losing control: There is the fear of being policed and having others who feel they need to help monitor your meals.
  • Being judged: Admitting you have an eating disorder and knowing that your struggle is no longer a secret may bring on feelings of embarrassment and shame.
  • Experiencing failure: The idea of letting people down and disappointing loved ones can cause a great deal of distress.

These are all valid fears. Having mixed emotions about recovery doesn’t mean you don’t want to get better. It’s okay to experience conflicting feelings of wanting to be free of your eating disorder and hold onto it simultaneously. Mixed emotions (or ambivalence) are part of the recovery process and healing journey. It’s essential to recognize that these fears are normal and a natural part of recovery (1).

How to Overcome the Fear of Recovery from an Eating Disorder

If you are feeling overwhelmed or scared by the thought of recovering from your eating disorder, there are some strategies you can use to face your fears and make taking the first steps a little easier.

First, remember you are so much more than your eating disorder! Recovery can be a daunting process, but it is possible to overcome the fear. One of the best strategies is to build a strong support system. Having a team of professionals, loved ones, and friends who understand your situation and provide comfort and assistance can make all the difference in facing your fears.

Identify your fears and your motivations. Writing down your negative and positive thoughts about recovery can give you a clearer picture of your goals.

While you’re exploring and navigating your feelings about recovery, go easy on yourself. Getting better takes a lot of work and energy, so be kind to yourself throughout the process (2).

Resources to Help with the Recovery Process

Recovery from an eating disorder is possible, and many different types of treatments and support are available. Some resources include therapy, nutrition counseling, and outpatient or inpatient treatment programs. You can find these resources through your healthcare provider or non-profit organizations dedicated to helping individuals suffering from eating disorders.

Seeking out support groups and online forums can also be a great way to get advice, tips, and encouragement from others going through the same thing. Learning from the struggles and successes of your peers can give you hope and belief in the recovery process.

It is especially helpful for the members of your support system to recognize that fears about recovery are usual. This process is one of learning for your loved ones, and one of the best things they can do to support you is to get educated. Be sure to share your resources with them, too.

Recovering from an eating disorder is a journey, and it might take time and effort, but it is worth it. With the right help and support, you can face and overcome the fear of recovery. Call Selah House at 765.819.2524 or use our contact form to learn how our highly trained staff can help you overcome your fears and take the first steps toward a successful recovery.



  1. Butterfly. (2021, July 5). Ambivalence to eating disorder recovery. https://butterfly.org.au/ambivalence-to-eating-disorder-recovery/
  2. Noonan, S.J. (2016, August 31). Fear of recovery getting better can bring on anxiety. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/view-the-mist/201608/fear-recovery#:~:text=Recovery%20also%20means%20leaving%20the,to%20your%20old%20depressed%20self.


Author Bio:

Kate Delaney Chen, BSN, RN-BC is a healthcare writer and registered nurse with over 17 years of bedside experience. She specializes in Psychiatric Nursing and Nephrology and currently works at a nationally recognized Inpatient Eating Disorders Program.

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