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Teens with anorexia nervosa face many stressors that can wreak havoc on their health and happiness. Without the right tools at their disposal, teens may start to rely on increasingly disordered coping mechanisms to handle the stress. These coping mechanisms can make eating disorder symptoms worse and complicate the process of becoming recovered with anorexia nervosa treatment.

This is why experts at anorexia nervosa treatment centers focus on helping teens build healthy coping skills while becoming recovered. With healthy coping techniques on hand, teenagers can work through the stressors they face without causing themselves any harm. The skills come in handy as they work on becoming recovered and continue to support the teens as they transition home and back to their daily lives.

Better understanding the link between healthy coping skills and anorexia recovery can help loved ones provide the right level of support to the teens in their lives. This guide aims to explore this link and the types of coping skills that help teens with eating disorder recovery.

Link Between Healthy Coping Skills and Anorexia Nervosa Recovery

Teens face an enormous number of stressors that can make coping with daily life truly difficult. When teens cannot adequately deal with the stress they face, they may start to experience physical and mental health problems. If they have an eating disorder, their symptoms may worsen as they rely on disordered thoughts and behaviors to cope.

On their journey to becoming recovered from anorexia nervosa, teens must work on challenging their disordered thought patterns and behaviors. This helps to eliminate eating disorder symptoms that impede the recovery process. To make progress in this area, it is necessary to actually replace the disordered thoughts and behaviors with healthy coping skills. The replacement process can take time as teens build their toolbox of coping skills and learn which ones work for them.

Not all coping skills work for every person, so finding the right ones is a personal journey. Teens must work to identify and utilize the skills that help mitigate their most distressing eating disorder symptoms. Once they find the most useful skills / tools, they have to practice relying on those coping methods in real-life situations.

With time and plenty of practice, coping skills become second-nature and can help effectively mitigate the stress that arises day to day. When this happens, teens with anorexia nervosa can work toward becoming and remaining recovered with confidence in their ability to handle difficult times.

Types of Coping Skills That Help with Eating Disorder Recovery

Certain coping skills can help teens remain resilient as they face the daily stressors that arise. The following coping skills are some options that may offer the most support as teens work on becoming and remaining recovered from their eating disorder.

Practice Self-Care

While recovering from eating disorders, teens must make self-care a priority to best cope with stress. Through effective self-care routines, it is possible for these individuals to rejuvenate their mind and bodies while staying on the path toward recovery.

Types of self-care include:

  • Leisurely Walks
  • Soaks in the bathtub
  • Journaling
  • Watching movies
  • Playing games

Anything that helps teens wash away the stress of the day and move on feeling renewed is a form of self-care. This approach ensures teens make their wellbeing a priority as they work on anorexia disorder recovery.

Use Positive Affirmations

Combating negative thought patterns can take an enormous amount of effort without a way to fill the void with positivity. Thankfully, positive affirmations can provide just what teens need to make those disordered thoughts a thing of the past. In conjunction with self-care and combating negative thoughts and behaviors, these positive statements can provide an additional level of support while in or stepping down from anorexia nervosa treatment.

Even short statements, such as “I am worthy of good food and great company” can make a difference in how teens with anorexia nervosa feel about themselves. With only a few repetitions each day, these statements can start to become second nature, replacing the disordered thoughts that were causing distress.

Learn About New Subjects

When teens with anorexia nervosa experience stress, they may feel unable to focus on anything but the problems they face. The unwavering focus on these negative thoughts can cause eating disorder symptoms to worsen or return.

Switching their focus to learning about new subjects can provide a new topic to focus on and to find enjoyment in. Sometimes simply focusing on another subject for a little while can help teens cope with their daily stressors and better handle the problem at hand at a later time.

Enjoy a Favorite Hobby

Similarly, a favorite hobby can help release stress by keeping teens’ focus on a subject that brings about feelings of hope and positivity. Teens have many different options to consider if they do not already have a hobby. Although the full range of hobbies is extensive, some popular activities include:

  • Crafts
  • Photography
  • Gardening
  • Soap making
  • Reading
  • Calligraphy
  • Fantasy sports

By turning to these activities when triggered, teens can utilize these hobbies that bring feelings of joy as opposed to engaging in disordered behaviors that may have felt like the only option before.

Lean on Friends and Family

Social support networks are a vital part of the anorexia nervosa recovery journey. Friends and family can help with coping by offering a listening ear or support during difficult times. They can offer support through trying times and participate in celebrations through the good times.

Loved ones can also visit the anorexia treatment centers to learn about other healthy coping tactics alongside their loved ones. Their participation in programming helps teens when they start to practice their coping skills outside the treatment center and at home. When teens know they have people they can rely on, they are better able to push past stress and work on becoming recovered.

Watch a Funny Show

Through humor, it is possible for teens to let go of stress and release some of their pent-up emotions. Many people use humor as a coping mechanism to great effect, effectively managing big emotions and preventing problems in the long run. By simply watching a funny show, teens can think about something else for a short period of time and let the stressful feelings dissipate in the meantime.

Listen to Their Favorite Music

Music can serve as an effective tool in managing stress and aiding in the anorexia nervosa treatment journey. A basic calming beat, for example, has the power to relieve high-stress levels and calm teens down after a hard day. Upbeat tunes can also help change teens’ moods and help them better cope with stress. The type of music teens listen to does not really matter, as long as they like it.

Teens in anorexia nervosa treatment centers can go one step further in using their favorite tunes to cope with structured music therapy. This type of therapy shows teens all the different ways to use music as a tool for coping. They may analyze their favorite song lyrics, write their own songs or play an instrument during the therapy sessions. Using music in this way gives teens the coping skills they need to keep stress from affecting their physical and mental health.

Spend Time Outdoors

Spending time in nature can bring about feelings of calm, help teens recover from stress faster and provide a buffer to combat disordered behaviors. The natural setting can help restore mental resilience that stress tends to break down over time. The calm, distraction-free environment can also help with healthy coping when stress reaches higher levels.

Teens do not have to go camping or spend an extended amount of time in nature to feel the effects. They can simply go on a walk through a local park or spend time on nearby nature trails to begin to feel the stress slipping away. With an hour or so outside their regular daily environment, they can start to feel relief from stress and gain perspective about the difficulties ahead.

Mindfulness and Meditation

Teens often have difficulty gauging their feelings and seeing how they are coping with a particular problem. They may not associate the way they feel with the stress levels in their lives, causing a disconnect that affects anorexia nervosa recovery. Teens can tap back into their feelings and lower their stress levels using mindfulness and meditation.

Mindfulness allows teens to assess how they are feeling and link their emotions with situations in their lives. Most teens need help learning how to be mindful from the team at anorexia treatment centers. Meditation complements mindfulness by giving teens a way to acknowledge and release distressing thoughts. The meditation sessions only need to last 10 to 15 minutes to have a big impact on how teens feel day in and day out.

How to Learn Coping Skills in Anorexia Nervosa Treatment Centers

Learning how to effectively use coping skills is a big part of working toward recovery at anorexia nervosa treatment centers. Therapists help teens explore the coping skills available to them and learn more about each one. As they try out different ways of coping with stress, they can identify the tactics that work best for their situation and mindset.

Simply introducing healthy coping skills to teens is not quite enough to truly help them in becoming recovered. Therapists must help teens practice using these skills in real-life situations through exposure exercises. These exercises allow teens to address stressful situations, including eating disorder triggers, and learn how to cope in a positive manner.

Teens have to start these exercises in the anorexia nervosa treatment centers before transitioning out to try them at home. They may also practice coping through exposure exercises on outings while in treatment.

Teens can reassess their toolbox of coping skills after every exercise to determine if they have the tools they need to become and remain recovered from anorexia nervosa disorder. Therapists can introduce new coping skills as needed to assist teens in finding their ideal strategies for dealing with everyday stress.

Acquiring Help and Support at Anorexia Treatment Centers

Going through an effective anorexia nervosa treatment program can help teens develop the coping skills they need to become and remain recovered. Anorexia nervosa disorder therapists will provide the support teens need to try out coping skills and find the ones that work. They also support teens in practicing using their healthy coping skills to deal with real-life situations in and outside the anorexia nervosa treatment centers.

As teens fill their toolbox with coping skills, they can handle whatever comes their way with confidence and without relying on past disordered behaviors as a way to cope. They can get started by contacting the treatment centers to speak to the intake specialists.

These specialists will assist teens and their parents in learning about the available treatment options and signing up for the desired program. They will quickly receive help from a full team of experts trained in treating anorexia nervosa disorder and other types of eating disorders. The support they receive will help them remain recovered and continue to build their toolbox as life throws difficult situations their way.




Melissa Spann, PhD, LMHC, CEDS-S

Melissa Orshan Spann, PhD, LMHC, RTY 200, is Chief Clinical Officer at Monte Nido & Affiliates, overseeing the clinical operations and programming for over 50 programs across the U.S. Dr. Spann is a Certified Eating Disorder Specialist and clinical supervisor as well as an accomplished presenter and passionate clinician who has spent her career working in the eating disorder field in higher levels of care. She is a member of the Academy for Eating Disorders and the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals where she serves on the national certification committee, supervision faculty, and is on the board of her local chapter. She received her doctoral degree from Drexel University, master’s degree from the University of Miami, and bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida.