The treatment of Eating Disorders can be very complicated and takes patience, practice, presence, and professional support as with most behavioral disorders. Unlike substance use disorders, disordered eating is unique because you cannot practice abstinence. Sustaining a balanced relationship with food is necessary for one’s health and wellness so it is important to thoroughly understand the circumstances surrounding the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that come with Eating Disorder.
It is important to seek the support of loved ones and a qualified specialist. “Eating disorders are serious, potentially life-threatening conditions that affect a person’s emotional and physical health. They are not just a “fad” or a “phase.” People do not just “catch” an eating disorder for a period of time. They are real, complex, and devastating conditions that can have serious consequences for health, productivity, and relationships. Eating disorders can affect every organ system in the body, and people struggling with an eating disorder need to seek professional help.” (NEDA)
The treatment of eating disorders cannot be approached as one size fits most. In fact, many of those suffering from a condition of disordered thought patterns and eating behaviors have deep desires to be set apart, to break out of the box that their eating disorder has them trapped in and to acquire self-acceptance and an individual sense of self. Feeling acceptance from loved ones and care providers may also be desired. It is common for there to be a desire to have control back over their own nutrition preferences and life goals but these active thoughts and behaviors do not leave room for balance and wellbeing to be achieved. Behaviors can show up in many forms. Some common symptoms or behaviors range from restriction to overeating to binge/ purge cycles and other self-harming behaviors. Obsessions, compulsions, and triggers around diet culture or meal habits are common in this population in addition to body image issues, social or mealtime anxiety, depression, substance abuse, laxative use, other self-harm behaviors, and suicidality.
It can be an emotionally painful and confusing road to recovery if attempted alone. Many people suffer their entire life when left untreated. The mortality rate for those with Anorexia Nervosa is among the highest, as it can be medically compromising and affect all organs of the body. Stabilization is the most important first step, then down the line, once behaviors are inactive, treatment may also include trauma work. When we begin to uncover what is at the root of the eating disorder, It is then possible to work through the underlying issues with attachment, relationship, body image, identity, self-acceptance and self-worth to rediscover a complete sense of self.
Similar to other behavioral disorders and addictions, the same treatment approach does not work for everyone. In support of active behaviors and urges, DBT, Mindfulness, and other mind-body healing modalities like yoga, EFT Tapping and Meditation can help with reintegration with the body and coping skills. Once stabilized and behaviors are inactive, we at Divinity Recovery have found that a trauma-focused treatment approach is highly effective in the treatment of Eating Disorders along with nutrition and cooking exposure with a focus on Intuitive eating and HAES which stands for Health At Every Size. We focus on acceptance and empowerment to challenge shame and overcome the stigmas related to eating disorders.
If you or someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder or co-occurring conditions, it is important to seek help right away as it could be a life-threatening situation. Visit the National Eating Disorder Association web page for the most up to date, evidence-based information and resources on Eating Disorders.
“Health Consequences.” National Eating Disorders Association(NEDA), 22 Feb. 2018, www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/health-consequences.