Contributor: Staff at Carolina House
Halloween parties can be scary when you have an eating disorder, and not just because they’re intended for spooky-season enthusiasts. From the costumes to candy, horror-themed cocktails, and food spreads, these gatherings can be rife with eating disorder triggers. However, if you’re in recovery from an eating disorder, it doesn’t mean that you need to stay home this Halloween. There are a lot of things you can do to have a good time while remaining in a positive emotional space and safeguarding your recovery, such as:
Have a Plan for Food and Alcohol
Candy may be a staple on Halloween, but it isn’t the only treat that may pose concerns for someone who is in recovery from an eating disorder. Parties celebrating this holiday often have themed snacks or cocktails, and these can trigger difficult feelings, urges, and behaviors.
While you are relearning how to have a healthy relationship with food and challenging the eating disorder you have been struggling with, being surrounded by platters of food may be overwhelming. The eating disorder thoughts, urges, or behaviors you may have had before might creep up on you, and it can be hard to manage them in such chaotic social settings.
For some, the availability of alcohol at Halloween parties can also be a trigger. This can lead some to drink to avoid acting on those compulsions or numb feelings of shame or any other intense emotions they may be feeling because of their struggles with an eating disorder. It is important to remain mindful of these triggers and use your coping skills to face them head-on.
These situations have the potential to set your recovery back, so it’s important to create a plan for how to handle them before you even participate in these festivities. Questions you can ask as you develop your plan include:
- What are the main eating disorder triggers you should look for during your time at these events, and what measures will you take to manage them?
- Are you at a place in your eating disorder recovery where you can eat intuitively and listen to your natural hunger cues, or should you work with your support team to establish a plan for eating meals and snacks prior to attending?
- Should you avoid alcohol altogether, or would you benefit from setting a limit on the number of drinks you have?
- Do you feel comfortable attending alone, or is it best for you to bring someone from your support network with you?
- If attending alone, can you identify and consult with a support person to be available by phone or text if you need them?
Find a Costume That Makes You Happy
Browse almost any selection of women’s Halloween costumes and you’re likely to see the same trend: a highly sexualized version of nearly every theme imaginable. And research has backed up this harmful trend.
In one study of about 1,000 ads for Halloween costumes, the researchers found that the models and costumes were depicted in much more sexualized ways when the ads were for costumes intended for adult women compared with ads for costumes for men and adolescents .
It can be difficult to feel good about yourself and your body on Halloween when you’re surrounded by the idealized version of things like police officers, angels, and firefighters. Simply having to show up in a costume can be enough to make you want to stay home. And when you tack on an eating disorder, choosing a Halloween costume can be a downright nightmare.
The pressure to wear something revealing or go all out with your costume on Halloween can be very real, but remember that you are in control of how you present your body. If a costume doesn’t make you feel good, you don’t have to wear it.
This year, try to focus on costume ideas that make you laugh or feel happy. It could be a funny object or your favorite character from a book or TV show. You might also choose an outfit that makes you feel comfortable or most able to be present.
Reach Out to Someone
Living with an eating disorder often causes feelings of shame, as numerous studies have shown . And having the potential to be triggered at a Halloween party can make you feel like you have a shameful secret that could come out at the worst moment.
That’s why reaching out to someone you trust can be so helpful.
Sharing what you’re going through with someone can sometimes take away the power an eating disorder may have. By bringing the situation out into the open, you’re not leaving any space for shame to develop.
Having this conversation can also give you a chance to talk about other ways the person might be able to support you throughout the season, such as:
- Going shopping for Halloween costumes together
- Being available to talk if you’re struggling
- Attending Halloween parties with you
- Working together on your party plan
- Sharing meals before any Halloween parties
- Helping you create a plan for meals and snacks
Knowing that you’re not alone can make a huge difference in your eating disorder recovery throughout the Halloween season.
The thought of Halloween or going to a Halloween party can be scary if you’re in recovery from an eating disorder. But by planning ahead and reaching out for support, you can have a frighteningly good time.
 Sherman, A.M., Allemand, H., & Prickett, S. (2020). Hypersexualization and sexualization in advertisements for Halloween costumes. Sex Roles. 83, 254–266. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-019-01105-0
 Nechita, D.M., Bud, S., & David, D. (2021). Shame and eating disorders symptoms: A meta-analysis. International Journal of Eating Disorders. 54(11), 1,899-1,945. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/eat.23583
About Carolina House
Carolina House is an eating disorder treatment center that serves people age 17 and older of all genders. Within our residential and outpatient programs, we offer a range of services, such as LGBTQ- and male-inclusive programming, to help individuals who are struggling with eating disorders and co-occurring mental health conditions. Our treatment connects individuals with the care they need to achieve long-term recovery from eating disorders and other mental health concerns.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Published on October 31st, 2022. Published on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on October 31st, 2022