Understanding Treatment for Eating Disorders, Self-Injury, & Co-Occurring Disorders
Recovery from an eating disorder is possible, despite the complex emotional challenges eating disorders present for sufferers and their loved ones. There are a variety of eating disorder treatment options depending on a woman’s symptoms and the presence of medical complications or co-occurring disorders.
Despite the desire of many patients and their loved ones to seek the most intensive treatment option available, it’s important to choose the level of care appropriate to the patient’s eating disorder symptoms. Many healthcare providers lack a detailed understanding of eating disorders, particularly if the disease is accompanied by co-occurring disorders. It’s critical for patients and their loved ones to do their own research and seek out a professional who focuses all or a large part of their practice on eating disorders. Below are the primary options one needs to understand:
Individual and/or group psychotherapy sessions help many women with eating disorders to better understand their disease process, and experience a decrease in their symptoms. A psychologist, therapist, social worker, psychiatrist, or eating disorder specialist may conduct individual and group therapy for eating disorders.
Eating disorders not only affect the sufferer, but impact her entire family. Family therapy may also help the family to engage in their own recovery process and to better support their loved one in her recovery.
Studies have found that certain women with eating disorders, and especially those suffering with co-occurring disorders, can benefit from prescription medication. Medication may make it easier for sufferers to participate more fully in treatment and take greater ownership of their recovery. Medication for eating disorders and co-occurring disorders should only be prescribed by an experienced psychiatrist or medical doctor specializing in eating disorders and/or addiction medicine.
A registered dietician experienced in developing meal plans for eating disorder patients may be able to help the sufferer overcome their apprehensions about food. Turning over nutrition, exercise and dietary needs to the help of a nutritionist can provide the sufferer with a sense of trust and surrender needed to end reliance on eating disorder symptoms.
Peer Support Groups
Unlike therapeutic groups run by professionals, peer-led support groups can help eating disorder sufferers learn to verbalize feelings about food, share their unique stories, and reduce the shame associated with the diseases. 12 step mutual support groups with focus on eating disorder recovery include Overeaters Anonymous, Anorexics and Bulimics Anonymous, and Eating Disorders Anonymous.
Residential Treatment Centers
For women with more advanced eating disorders, residential treatment offers the opportunity to step back from the triggers and stresses of daily life to focus on healing and recovery. Residential treatment centers for eating disorders provide 24-hour medical and clinical support in a fully-integrated therapeutic environment that can rapidly accelerate the recovery process. Residential treatment for eating disorders may make particular sense for persons who also suffer with co-occurring addictions or other psychiatric disorders.
Outpatient Treatment Programs
Some hospitals and independent organizations offer structured programs that provide outpatient treatment for eating disorders. For persons who are able to tolerate emotions and avoid symptoms at home, these programs can be a viable alternative to inpatient hospitalizations or residential eating disorder treatment.
For women with advanced eating disorders that result in serious health consequences, inpatient hospital treatment may be the only way to stabilize her medical symptoms and allow her to participate actively in treatment. Hospitalization may be required when a woman refuses all food and must receive nutrition through a feeding tube in order to survive. Hospital stays may last anywhere from a few days to several months, and patients are usually discharged to an intensive outpatient program or to a residential eating disorder treatment center.