Eating disorders create emotional and physical distress in you and your loved ones. Fortunately, you can receive treatment to live a healthy life again. This can only happen if you reach out for help. Talk to a loved one, friend or mentor about your eating disorder and discuss your treatment options.
Treating Your Eating Disorder
Like most mental and physical conditions, the first step in treating an eating disorder is receiving a diagnosis. Following the diagnosis, eating disorder treatment should address the medical consequences, as well as the mental, biological and societal forces that contribute to the disorder. Eating disorder treatment typically consists of a combination of medical monitoring, psychological therapy and nutritional counseling depending on the level of care needed.
There is no one “right” way to recover. Since eating disorders are caused by a variety of biological, psychological and cultural factors, each person’s recovery will look different. Different types of medical monitoring, including inpatient treatment and residential care, may be needed depending on the severity of eating disorder.
Eating disorder treatment extends beyond just managing symptoms. Lasting recovery typically comes by working with a nutritional counselor and a therapist to combat the root of the disorder.
Inpatient treatment may be the best option for those who are medically and/or psychiatrically unstable. If vital signs or laboratory findings reveal a major health risk, if symptoms worsen rapidly or if the patient is displaying suicidal tendencies, they may require inpatient care.
Recovering from an eating disorder requires patience, time and care, so inpatient treatment works best for people who need more intensive care. You should never be ashamed to seek or undergo inpatient treatment if you need it. These programs are designed to stabilize, encourage and support you as you move along your journey toward recovery.
Outpatient treatment is often prescribed for people who are mentally and physically stable enough to not require constant medical monitoring. These patients can function in normally at home, work and/or school. They continue making progress in their recovery by attending counseling and doctors’ appointments.
The cornerstone of outpatient treatment is psychotherapy sessions. Patients may also see a nutritional counselor and their primary care physician/pediatrician. Outpatient treatment is the most flexible and often the most cost-effective form of therapy.
Residential treatment programs differ from inpatient treatment in that patients are not medically unstable. However, they still require a level of care more intensive than outpatient treatment.
In residential treatment, patients experience structured care at a live-in facility. The goal of this treatment is to remove outside distractions like work or school so that those suffering from an eating disorder may focus their attention solely on their recovery efforts.
Similar to most mental disorders, there are many types of psychotherapy treatment options for eating disorders. No two people experience and manifest eating disorder symptoms in the same way. So, a type of therapy that works well for one person may not suit someone else. Some therapy types may be more helpful than others depending on the severity of the disorder and the patient’s stage in recovery.
Typically, the first goal of eating disorder treatment is to reduce the negative eating patterns. Psychotherapy then follows to address the root of the eating disorder and help the patient achieve a lasting recovery. Some major types of eating disorder behavioral therapy include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT).
Nutritional counseling uses personalized meal plans created and monitored by a registered dietician (RD). The RD first determines the patient’s nutrient and recovery needs. Patients then work with the RD to ensure a sufficient nutrient intake.
This type of treatment may also consist of follow-up sessions with the RD to formulate goals and self-management skills to further recovery. Ultimately, the RD aims to help the person suffering from an eating disorder relearn and adopt normal eating patterns.