Unsurprisingly, when a woman suffers with compulsive overeating, treatment providers often focus too narrowly on her eating behaviors or on managing health problems associated with being overweight.
For her, however, compulsive overeating is not so much about the food.
Looking at the Whole Person, Not Just Compulsive Eating
Like anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders, it quickly becomes a way to manage complex feelings, and grows into a compulsion that she can’t control. Food consumption becomes a very emotional experience that may help fill a void she feels inside, or to escape from daily stresses and problems in her life. Her compulsive use of food and eating may be an effort to cope with feelings of inadequacy and shame. Regardless of the underlying causes, the effects of compulsive overeating create vicious cycles that make it impossible for her to stop on her own.
Women who compulsively overeat lack the widely recognized purging symptoms of bulimia nervosa, which are often what trigger recognition of their behavior as a serious eating disorder. As a result, she may face an uphill battle as she seeks understanding of her feelings about food, her life, herself and others. This can make it difficult to receive proper medical treatment for this serious eating disorder and for other co-occurring disorders that may stand in the way of her happiness.
Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center takes great care to understand a woman’s entire history of addictive or compulsive behavior, given the role that these co-occurring conditions will have on treatment and recovery from compulsive overeating.
Psychiatric conditions commonly co-existing with compulsive eating 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 or dependence
Many compulsive overeating treatment programs focus exclusively on treating symptoms of disordered eating. Our team takes a step back and looks at the whole person. Through our experience, we’ve learned that many women suffering with overeating disorders also have other unidentified co-occurring psychiatric or addictive. These poorly understood conditions may either contribute to her triggers of bingeing, or they may develop as she attempts to cope with side effects of her eating disorder.
How do we Create Effective, Individualized Compulsive Eating Treatment Plans?
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 program. This collaborative approach is one of the distinguishing elements of overeating 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 compulsive overeating 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 compulsive eating.
Thorough Intake Assessment
Once she is admitted, each woman undergoes a comprehensive medical and psychiatric assessment. She is then assigned an eating disorder 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 compulsive overeating 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 compulsive overeating disorder and any other co-occurring 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 compulsive overeating treatment considers all relevant aspects of her health.
Additionally, women with other medical symptoms or complications from compulsive overeating, anorexia nervosa or bulimia may be referred to consulting healthcare providers such as a dentist, cardiologist, gynecologist, orthopedic surgeon, or gastroenterologist.
Our Staff is Committed to Meeting You Where You Are
Every woman who commits to compulsive overeating 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 eating disorders. Our psychiatrists and therapists know that a woman doesn’t want to engage in compulsive eating, but that symptoms are an attempt to cope with complicated emotions. We also understand the complex fears and obstacles that come with committing to eating disorder treatment and seeking a new path with different behaviors and ways of thinking.
That’s why we take such an integrated, individualized approach to compulsive eating treatment by helping girls and women:
- Identify emotional triggers for excessive eating, which may have underlying causes that have not been properly identified or addressed
- Create awareness of the help available to choose healthy ways to respond to stress, anxiety or shame
- Avoid destructive “either/or” thought patterns that add to the experience of hopelessness and unmanageability for many women in their disease
- Develop confidence in her potential to make healthy choices that foster and sustain her recovery
We don’t make assumptions about a resident’s experience and needs based on her age, weight, or patterns of compulsive eating. 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 Compulsive Eating 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 overeating disorders.
Every woman who seeks recovery from compulsive eating must develop tools she can trust to help her manage emotions that trigger eating binges. 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 they experience feelings that would have triggered a compulsive eating binge in the past. As they gain confidence in their ability to make positive, healthy choices and to tap into the help that is available to them, they experience improved self-esteem and body acceptance, reduced stress and anxiety, healing of trauma, and increased self-awareness.
Comprehensive and individualized eating disorder treatment plans use approaches proven to help women learn to healthfully experience their emotions and develop the tools to recover from compulsive overeating. Specific elements of treatment may include:
- one-on-one therapy sessions
- expressive and experiential therapy
- 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
- onsite and offsite twelve-step 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 compulsive overeating 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 media
- 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
A Realistic, Supportive Approach to Nutrition
Many women and girls come to residential treatment for compulsive overeating disorders with fear about what they will experience during meals. Our treatment team believes that healthy changes in eating behavior begin with listening and empathy, not with policing or judgment.
Our nutrition and eating disorder treatment staff focuses on creating an environment where a woman can feel safe expressing her emotions about food and eating. Learning to verbalize her feelings, she will start to realize that she is not alone with her illness, or in her struggle to cope with her stress, anxiety and shame. Our nutritional philosophy focuses on supporting women as they seek this awareness and helping them develop confidence in their ability to surrender to the help available to make healthy choices about food. Experiential activities like shopping and cooking given resident the chance to practice skills needed to overcome compulsive overeating, bulimia or anorexia in the real world while still surrounded by eating disorder treatment professionals who understand her emotional challenges.
We recognize that successful overeating disorder treatment must also equip a woman’s family to engage in the recovery process during and after her stay at a residential treatment center. Nutrition and meal preparation approaches are part of weekly family conferences over the phone, as well as hands on sessions with our eating disorder specialists and dieticians during on-campus visits. When clinically appropriate, we may also encourage the family to practice these skills together during a during off-campus meals.
What Should Parents or Friends Say If They Are Concerned?
Watch a video with Timberline Knolls on compulsive overeating and eating disorder recovery.
To learn more about compulsive overeating treatment and recovery at Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center, call one of our experienced admissions counselors today. We accept women and girls (ages 12 and up) for admission seven days a week.