Healthy Living

Getting Help For An Eating Disorder: Types of Treatment

Getting Help For An Eating Disorder: Types of Treatment

Key Takeaways

  • Eating disorders are treatable medical conditions
  • Treatments for eating disorders depend on the specific illness and symptoms
  • Treatment may involve psychotherapy, medical monitoring, nutrition education and medications

Eating disorders can be a problematic condition physically, psychologically, and can inhibit a person from living a healthy lifestyle. Their effects are apparent, and these conditions require the right combination of associated therapies for proper treatment. Whether it is a binge-eating disorder, anorexia or bulimia nervosa, these disorders require immediate medical attention.

Eating disorders are related to a wide range of psychological, social and physical consequences. The different types of eating disorders are often characterized by severe distress about weight and body shape, and extreme efforts to control weight and food intake.

Eating disorders are treatable medical conditions. Most of the time, they coexist with other conditions such as anxiety, depression, or substance abuse. Eating disorders can be life threatening if a person who has the condition does not receive treatment.

While the exact causes for eating disorders remains unknown, there are a number of factors that can make you more susceptible to develop one. Perhaps the least controllable factor is genetics. As with other conditions, a genetic disposition towards a disease is possible through immediate family. If you have a sibling or or parent that has previously had an eating disorder, you are more likely to one develop one as well.

Societal obligations can cause stress for anyone. The need to fill a particular role as dictated by society is a very common pressure, especially for teenagers. 

Underlying conditions such as psychological or emotional complications can exacerbate an eating disorder. Whether it is low self-esteem or behavioral problems, these complications directly correlate with societal obligations. The media can present an image of a successful person and with it, they are thin and subsequently rich. Psychological and emotional complications can arise from this disparity. 

What are the treatments for eating disorders?

Treatments for eating disorders depend on the specific illness and symptoms. Treatment is usually a combination of psychotherapy (psychological counseling), medical monitoring, nutrition education and medications (sometimes). These treatments will also involve managing other health conditions caused by eating disorders.

An organized approach to the different eating disorders can help manage the symptoms, maintain mental and physical health, and regain a normal and healthy weight.

Prior to treatment, a person with an eating disorder must first seek help from a health professional such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or registered dietitian. Treatment may be planned by a single health professional, or it could be a team. Prior to treatment, the needs of the patient will be determined before coming up with guidelines and goals.

Psychological Counseling

Psychological counseling, also known as psychotherapy, is the most important treatment for eating disorders. Counseling can last from months to years and patients should go to counseling on a regular basis.

 Psychological counseling can help:

  • Normalize eating patterns
  • Achieve a normal and healthy weight
  • Monitor eating habits and moods
  • Explore healthy techniques to deal with stressful situations
  • Improve mood
  • Exchange unhealthy eating habits for healthy ones
  • Develop problem solving skills
  • Improve relationships

 This type of treatment may involve any of the following:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy – This therapy is focused on addressing thoughts, behaviors and feelings that are related to the eating disorder. It is a structured, short-term treatment. The goals of this treatment are to normalize eating behaviors and change fuzzy thoughts that result in eating disorder behaviors.
  • Family based therapy – With this treatment, family members are able to learn how to help their loved one restore normal eating patterns as well as achieve a healthy weight until the patient can do it on their own. This therapy is beneficial for parents who want to learn how to help their kids with eating disorders.
  • Group cognitive behavioral therapy – This therapy involves meeting with a mental health provider as well as other people diagnosed with eating disorders. This can help a person with an eating disorder to address feelings, thoughts, and behaviors associated with eating disorders by finding common ground with others affected by similar conditions.

Nutrition Education

In nutrition education, a plan is developed to sustain healthy eating habits. The goals of this treatment are:

  • Achieve a healthy weight
  • Practice meal planning
  • Correct health problems that leads to malnutrition
  • Recognize how eating disorders cause physical and nutrition problems
  • Understand how nutrition affects the body
  • Establish regular eating patterns
  • Take steps to avoid binge eating and dieting

Medications

Medications are not given to cure eating disorders. However, the medications can help patients follow a treatment plan. Medications are effective when they are combined with psychological counseling. The most popular medication prescribed for eating disorders are antidepressants. 

Complications

Eating disorders are very serious conditions which require immediate care and support. The importance of having family or friends aid in the person's recovery cannot go unstated. Even by simply listening to their concerns can make a difference. The reason why treatment and support is so important, is because of the potential outcomes related to eating disorders. Apart from complications such as depression and anxiety, which often accompany these types of disorders, suicidal thoughts, growth and developmental issues, or even death can result from an eating disorder.

Self-care and prevention

As with most conditions and diseases, there are a variety of self-help and preventative measures that you can practice on your own time. These methods are designed to accentuate other treatment plans, and offer effective coping strategies. 

One of the first methods to employ, is a healthier diet. Regulating eating habits and avoiding particular foods can be a big step in recovering from an eating disorder. Whether the disorder is anorexia or a binge-eating disorder, proper portion control will prove extremely effective. It is also a relatively easy method to follow, keeping in mind a balanced diet and appropriate proportions.

Working in conjunction with the enforcement a healthier diet, its important to reinforce a healthy body image. If the disorder is occurring in a child, relay to them that no two people are the same. This is important because it will build confidence in the child, and offer reassurance for their current predicament. Parental empathy and understanding is crucial in building the self-esteem of an affected child. 

Perhaps the most important of all in the interest of self-care and prevention, is identification. Due to the increased activity of the internet in the past decade, millions of people now have the ability to create websites and blogs, offering some sort of advice on a condition. There are websites out there that make outlandish claims, such as anorexia being a lifestyle choice, as opposed to an eating disorder.

The spread of misinformation in today's world is all too common. If a child gets on the internet and happens to want more information on their potential disorder, they may search for articles that promote anorexia, for example. This is a manifestation of the inability to accept reality, and the child will only absorb information that works in tandem with their belief about said condition. This of course has tremendous repercussions, and can lead to serious effects on the individuals health. Be sure to seek out help from you doctor or pediatrician to help manage and treat an eating disorder. They will be able to identify unique risk factors and develop a treatment strategy for you or your child.