We Understand the Emotions Beneath a Distorted Body Image
Body dysmorphic disorder involves deep-seated emotional causes that require support and understanding from an experienced treatment team.
Like anorexia and bulimia, body dysmorphia and other body image disorders are deeply linked to a woman’s self-esteem and emotions. The intensity of shame and embarrassment about her appearance that body dysmorphic disorder causes cannot be overstated.
Women with body dysmorphia lack the typical eating disorder symptoms, which makes it challenging to receive proper treatment. As a result, a woman may face an uphill battle as she seeks understanding of her feelings about her body and works to develop a more positive self-image. This can also make it difficult to receive proper medical treatment for other co-occurring disorders that may contribute to body dysmorphic disorder, especially if she exhibits no outward anorexic or bulimic behaviors.
Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center takes great care to understand a woman’s entire history of obsessive or compulsive behavior, given the role that these co-existing conditions can have on treatment and recovery from body dysmorphia.
Psychiatric conditions commonly co-existing with body dysmorphic disorder may include:
- panic and anxiety disorders
- sleep disorders
- bipolar disorder
- post-traumatic stress disorder
- borderline personality disorder
- obsessive compulsive personality disorder (or OCD)
- substance abuse/dependence disorders
Many eating disorder treatment programs do not view body dysmorphia with the same seriousness as other diseases that involve symptoms of poor body image, such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa. Our team takes a step back and looks at the whole person. Through our experience, we’ve learned that many women suffering with distorted self-image also have other unidentified co-occurring psychiatric and addictive disorders. These poorly understood conditions may either contribute to her fixation with physical flaws, or they may develop as she attempts to cope with side effects of a distorted self-image.
What Makes an Effective Body Dysmorphic Disorder Treatment Plan?
Thoughtful approaches to eating disorder treatment and recovery consider all available information about a resident, and leverage the experience of our entire staff to customize each woman’s treatment for body dysmorphia. This level of collaboration is one of the distinctive benefits of body image disorder treatment at a leading rehab center like Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center. It’s also one of the reasons why so many leading outpatient eating disorder specialists refer to us their patients who need more intensive treatment, or who have struggled to sustain recovery in an outpatient setting.
Assessment of a woman’s treatment needs begins early on in our admissions review process. We ask both the woman and her family to provide information about her symptoms, issues with friends and family, and challenges in school or work. We also seek her permission to communicate with previous eating disorder treatment providers to gather additional information about medical history, psychiatric history, past eating disorder treatment progress, and stumbling blocks to achieving or maintaining recovery from body dysmorphic disorder.
Thorough Intake Assessment
Once she is admitted, each woman undergoes a comprehensive medical and psychiatric assessment. She is then assigned a body dysmorphia treatment team with several members whom she will meet individually after she settles in on campus:
- Primary therapist
- Family therapist
- Psychiatrist (MD)
- Internal medicine physician (MD)
- Registered dietician (RD)
- Eating disorders specialist
Each treatment team member provides an assessment within the woman’s first days at Timberline Knolls. The findings are integrated and reviewed with our entire clinical staff, including other therapists and psychiatrists. As a result, our full knowledge about successful anorexia, bulimia, and body image disorder treatment is integrated into each woman’s treatment plan.
Taking Ownership of Treatment
We believe it is critical for each woman to take ownership of her treatment and recovery from the outset. Once her treatment plan is formulated, our team’s recommendations are shared with the woman in her first care conference, which will include her primary therapist, family therapist, psychiatrist, discharge planner, nursing staff and lodge staff. This cooperative approach gives her input into the goals for her treatment and allows her to choose several elective elements of her program. She will be asked to sign off on her treatment objectives and the progression of her treatment plan for body dysmorphic disorder and any other co-occurring psychiatric disorders, addictions, or eating disorders. This conference also sets stage for ongoing collaboration between the woman and her treatment team throughout her stay in residential treatment.
Looking Forward to Recovery
Following the initial care conference, the treatment team will meet weekly throughout the resident’s stay, and consult each other informally to monitor her progress and to make sure her recovery needs are being fully supported. If new symptoms appear, a woman may also undergo additional psychological testing or medical evaluation to insure her treatment considers all relevant aspects of her health.
Additionally, women with other medical symptoms or complications from body dysmorphic disorder, anorexia nervosa, or bulimia may be referred to consulting healthcare providers such as a dentist, cardiologist, gynecologist, orthopedic surgeon, or gastroenterologist.
Our Team Will Meet You Where You Are
Every woman who commits to body dysmorphia treatment brings her own story of challenges, emotions, and heartache. We focus on meeting each woman where she is, and supporting her in an uplifting, empowering manner, not through shaming or policing her behavior.
Several members of our eating disorder treatment staff have personal experience overcoming body image disorders. Our psychiatrists and therapists know that a woman doesn’t want to suffer with a negative self-image, but that symptoms are an attempt to cope with complicated emotions. We also understand the complex fears and obstacles that come with committing to treatment for body dysmorphic disorders and seeking a new path with different behaviors and ways of thinking.
That’s why we take such an integrated, individualized approach to body dysmorphia treatment by helping girls and women:
- Identify emotional triggers for compulsive eating, compulsive dieting, or compulsive exercise which may have other underlying causes that have not been properly identified or addressed
- Create awareness of healthy ways to respond to stress, anxiety, shame or trauma
- Avoid destructive “either/or” thought patterns that add to a woman’s sense of hopelessness and unmanageability in the disease
- Develop confidence in her potential to make healthy choices to begin and sustain her recovery
We don’t make assumptions about a resident’s experience and needs based on her age, weight, or history of body image fixation. Residents receive coaching and reinforcement that is individualized to help them grow in key areas of interpersonal skills, distress tolerance and management, reality acceptance skills, and emotional regulation skills.
What Will You Experience During Body Image Disorder Treatment?
A woman’s experience at Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center may differ significantly from other rehab facilities or treatment programs she has attended. That is our intent.
Comprehensive, Integrated Treatment and Recovery
There is no such thing as a cure for body dysmorphic disorder.
Every woman who seeks recovery from body dysmorphia must develop tools she can trust to help manage emotions that trigger her fixations. We work with our residents help them learn to recognize their feelings and identify the conscious choices they are making each day. Through ongoing, supportive reinforcement women learn to trust the tools we give them when their feelings would have triggered obsession with body image. As they gain confidence in their ability to make positive, healthy choices, they experience improved self-esteem and body acceptance, reduced stress and anxiety, healing of trauma, and increased self-awareness.
Comprehensive and individualized body image disorder treatment plans use approaches proven to help women learn to manage their emotions and develop the tools to recover from body dysmorphia. Specific elements of treatment may include:
- one-on-one therapy sessions
- body image groups
- expressive and experiential therapy (see below)
- education about disease processes and recovery
- meal support and regular consultation with dietary staff
- group sessions to teach and practice behavior modification and emotion management
- family therapy (including family participation)
- twelve-step facilitation, including onsite and offsite meetings
- weekly psychiatric consultation
- trauma awareness and recovery
- educational services for school-age women
Expressive Therapy Provides a Healthy Outlet for Feelings
Expressive therapy has been clinically proven to promote healing and recovery. It also provides a needed creative outlet for women during body dysmorphic disorder treatment, and after they return to their home environment. Our expressive therapy program includes a variety of outlets a woman can select based on her personal interests:
- art therapy in a historical art studio that supports painting, sculpture and other medias
- equine assisted psychotherapy
- dance/movement therapy
- empowerment group (experiential trauma recovery)
- self-defense in our on-site fitness facility
- outdoor recreation such as volleyball, basketball, soccer, badminton or gardening on our 43 acre campus