What Remains: Psychological Effects of a Pandemic

Sleep difficulties. High anxiety and deep-seated fear. Denial. Depression. Anger. Our reactions to our current state of affairs are as unique as we are. Universally, the pandemic is revealing on both individual and societal levels. Masks alone have become as divisive as political beliefs. The pandemic has stripped away our illusions of safety and security, leaving behind feelings, behaviors, and existential questions we might not have expected. Even for those who feel like “they have no reason to be stressed” because of good health and financial stability, are finding their reactions perplexing. For those who thrive on control and routine, our current situation is highly unsettling. The loss of normal and the implosion of perceived control have significant effects on our sense of safety on the world. Meanwhile, those who have their identity tied to busyness and productivity feel adrift. Who are we when we can no longer recognize ourselves by what we do? Who are we when we can only be? The extroverts are grappling with the loss of their energy source. Those who were already living close to the line financially are more stressed than ever. People who cope through denial are likely to be “under-responding.” Meanwhile, those who regularly witness suffering and trauma seem mentally unaffected as they accepted their lack of control before the pandemic began.

For many of us this is the first time our lives have been turned upside down on a large-scale. While our reactions vary widely, one thing is clear: this crisis reveals us. And like any life crisis, we are invited to self-examination and growth. When you are stripped of normalcy, what remains? Where does your mind go? What are your actions saying? How are you judging yourself or others? Are you feeling it or are you numbing it? We are invited to self compassion and compassion for our neighbors, including those whose behavior we struggle to understand. Can you see the complexity of the person underneath their choices? 

If we allow ourselves to be refined by this situation rather than struggle against it, what might we learn? What will you welcome back into your life and what will you happily discard? What can you no longer hide from yourself (e.g. the state of that relationship, the severity of the addiction, just how short your fuse is, how burned out the kids were)? Personally, I will happily reject burnout and continue more simplicity (unstructured time for myself and the kids, evening walks, meditation, slower pace). And I will welcome back the opportunity to hug people, travel, host friends, and support my clients in person. I hope we can use our newfound recognition of the fragility of normal life to practice gratitude for all the good we experience, all the love we receive, as well as the pain that brings growth.

Wishing for A Quick Fix? The Realities of Eating Disorder Recovery


No quick fixes in Eating Disorder Recovery

Frequently, when we are ready to acknowledge that something in our lives needs to be changed, we decide it needs to be changed NOW! Urgency related to eating disorder recovery seems to be a common denominator among my clients – after all, who would want to remain in pain for even a second longer than they have to? And yet, wanting something to change quickly, especially an issue that may have been around for years, does not mean that the recovery process can occur quickly.

Where does this urgency come from? Often, I find that the urgency to “get (eating disorder recovery) over with” comes not only from wanting to be out of pain quickly, but also from our society’s marketing of quick fixes for weight-related issues. Unfortunately, this also means that many people lose all hope when change does not occur in fast, dramatic fashion. They fear that if change is not swift, this way (therapy) of dealing with food/weight issues won’t work for them either. Yet, nothing is further from the truth. When we are walking alongside a client on the bumpy, indirect route of recovery, we regularly witness that small, deliberate steps create long-lasting change. In fact, in my experience, the hardest part of eating disorder recovery is not taking the steps, but developing patience and faith in the process.

If you are having a hard time tolerating the pace of your recovery, ask yourself these questions and consider whether you might be on the right – albeit slow and steady – track.

1) Do you feel different than before? Typically, even before any behavioral change occurs with food, changes are noticeable in our emotional state. Maybe we don’t feel so anxious about food or we are more aware of the emotional triggers for eating disorder behaviors than we have been in the past?

2) Are there changes happening in how you engage with food or your body? Small changes are the key here. For example, are you bingeing less frequently? Or, are you considering stopping a behavior even if you are not yet effective in preventing it?

3) Are you thinking about your body or food differently? Eating disorder recovery gives us the rare gift of developing self-compassion for our physical self and physical needs. Finally learning to listen to what your wise body has been trying to tell you all along is a big step for someone who has been imprisoned by their eating disorder.

If you can see your perspective, your feelings, or behaviors starting to shift, give yourself the gift of time. It takes time to rebuild a relationship, especially if that relationship is with yourself. Take the next step, however small, and you will be rewarded.

Finding the Right Eating Disorder Specialist For You

Finding the right eating disorder specialist

Certain areas, like eating disorders, addictions, and trauma, are true specialties. You should feel comfortable asking questions about someone’s experience in a certain area – this is your treatment!

Almost nothing upsets me more than hearing someone resist getting the therapy they need because they have had unhelpful, or worse yet, damaging eating disorder treatment in the past. It takes so much courage to reach out for help that you want it to be worth the risk, right? So, how do you know that the eating disorder specialist you are seeking treatment with is likely to be a good fit? Although there are no guarantees, the following points are worth considering when you looking for a treatment provider or team:

1) It might seem obvious, but do they specialize in the treatment of eating disorders? Eating disorders pose unique challenges and demand a unique set of skills and knowledge. If you encounter someone who states that they specialize in eating disorders but they also specialize in everything else, ask about their specialty further. Most therapists are trained as “generalists” and therefore have the resources to help you recover from many common mental health concerns like depression, anxiety, relationship issues, and life transitions. Certain areas, like eating disorders, addictions, and trauma, are true specialties. You should feel comfortable asking questions about someone’s experience in a certain area – this is your treatment!

2) Can the eating disorder specialist describe their approach in a deep, yet understandable way? Good therapists are able to boil down their “theoretical orientation” or treatment approach into terms that not only make sense to you, but fit the issue(s) for which you are seeking treatment. If the therapist seems overly general, inquire further, or move on in your search.

3) Is the therapist up-to-date on current research? Psychological science is constantly changing and therefore, so is our understanding of the development, maintenance, and effects of eating disorders. Your eating disorder specialist should know where the research currently stands on the role of families, biology, and other factors in eating disorder recovery. For instance, we now know that family is often a huge asset to treatment, whereas historically parents of minors were encouraged to stay out of their child’s treatment. Getting to know the research yourself will enable you to identify when a therapist is up-to-date.

4) Is the therapist a good match for your style? This is a consideration for anyone seeking a therapist, not just an eating disorder specialist. The relationship between therapist and client is central to the effectiveness of treatment. Finding a therapist that you find to be sincere, trustworthy, credible, non-judgmental, and a good personality match creates the perfect situation for growth and recovery.

Although it might be frustrating to meet with a few different therapists or take the risk to start treatment again after a negative experience, finding the right fit therapeutically is key to regaining your health -time well spent!

For detailed information on our training, specialities, and treatment methods, visit our website at www.clearhorizonsaz.com.

Recovery is Worth It!


Getting healthy, putting faith into a treatment team and a future that you can’t even imagine, takes incredible strength – but the payoff is absolutely unbeatable.

Many times, especially early in my work with someone who is in recovery, be it from depression, anxiety, or in eating disorder recovery, I find myself trying to “sell” them on getting healthy. It’s so hard for someone who has felt down and potentially malnourished for so long to imagine that the hope of recovery actually applies to them. “I’ve seen people recover from a very similar place,” I say, hoping that my expertise lends some credibility to the healthy self inside them. “I know you didn’t always feel this way,” I say, encouraging them to recapture their former selves. “That is the disease talking,” I say, urging them not to take their hopelessness so seriously. It is nearly impossible to imagine that the dawn will come when the darkness of night has been so long.

And yet today, in more dramatic ways than typical, I saw that hope and that future take on concrete form. All in one day, I learned that three (!) of my amazingly strong, brilliant clients got into the colleges of their choice. The joy literally could not be contained, spilling out into the waiting room. Days, weeks, semesters of pent up anxiety suddenly dissipated, promises of (in this case) eating disorder recovery coming to fruition, hope reborn in an instant. It turns out, that recovery is in fact worth it. It turns out that facing your fears and “going all in” often turns out well.

Getting healthy, putting faith into a treatment team and a future that you can’t even imagine takes incredible strength, but the payoff is absolutely unbeatable. Ask yourself, if you went “all in” by letting go of shame, self-judgment, and fear of vulnerability, what might you be capable of? I dare you to find out what your recovery looks like…