Orthorexia Treatment

An eating disorder like orthorexia can have serious effects on a person’s physical health. For many women with eating disorders, treatment centers focus exclusively on addressing symptoms like significant weight loss or serious nutritional deficiencies.

Treating the Whole Person, Not Just Orthorexia

Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center places more emphasis up front on understanding a woman’s entire history of obsessive or compulsive behavior, as well as other unidentified addictive patterns.

Our eating disorder treatment staff understands that many women with signs of orthorexia also suffer from co-occurring disorders or addictive behaviors that make it seem impossible to regain a healthy relationship with food. We are committed to helping each woman develop self-esteem and make positive choices that will allow her to achieve her goal of life-long eating disorder recovery.

We appreciate the complex emotional challenges that co-occurring psychiatric disorders can create for eating disorder treatment. Women with orthorexia symptoms commonly exhibit signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), as well as other mood and anxiety disorders. These conditions may either be related to orthorexia or to other unaddressed psychiatric conditions. Co-occurring disorders commonly seen in women with orthorexia may include:

  • depression
  • bipolar disorder
  • obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • obsessive compulsive personality disorder (which is different from OCD)
  • panic and anxiety disorders
  • post-traumatic stress disorder
  • substance abuse disorders

Our individualized, medically-informed approach to treatment and recovery succeeds whether other eating disorder treatment centers may have failed. It helps women and their loved ones renew their spirit, restore their lives and gain hope in an abundant, healthy future.

What Makes Our Eating Disorder Treatment Programs Successful?

Rigorous eating disorder treatment planning considers all accumulated knowledge about a resident, and leverages the experience of our entire staff to customize each treatment program. Given frequent disagreement over the definition and nature of orthorexia, it’s critical to confirm whether a woman suffers from orthorexia, anorexia nervosa, another eating disorder and/or co-occurring disorders. This critical first step requires input from specialists in psychiatry, eating disorders, nutrition and family systems.

This level of collaboration is one of the distinguishing elements of eating 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 treatment providers refer to us their patients who need deeper investigation into the diagnosis or more intensive treatment.

Before Admission

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 eating disorder 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 orthorexia or anorexia.

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 eating 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 orthorexia and any other co-occurring psychiatric or addictive 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 eating disorder treatment considers all relevant aspects of her health.

Additionally, women with other medical symptoms or complications from orthorexia, anorexia nervosa, or bulimia may be referred to consulting healthcare providers such as a dentist, cardiologist, gynecologist, orthopedic surgeon, or gastroenterologist.

The Emotions of Treatment – Meeting You Where You Are

Eating disorders progress differently in every woman.

Like anorexia and bulimia, orthorexia symptoms are an attempt to cope with complicated emotions that go much deeper than a woman’s diet. Symptoms often develop over such a long period of time that they become normalized and difficult to recognize as signs of a serious eating disorder. Several members of our treatment staff have personal experience overcoming eating disorders, so we understand the complex emotions and fears that come with accepting orthorexia treatment and committing to a new way of living.

No two women with orthorexia come to a residential treatment center in the same place. We focus on meeting each woman where she is, and supporting her in an uplifting, empowering manner, not through shaming or policing her behavior. We take an integrated, individualized approach to eating disorder treatment by helping women and adolescent girls to:

  • Identify emotional triggers for orthorexic symptoms, which may have an underlying cause that has not been properly identified or addressed
  • Create awareness of healthy ways to respond to emotions of fear, sadness, anger or shame
  • Avoid destructive “either/or” thought patterns that add to the experience of hopelessness or unmanageability for many women in their disease
  • Develop confidence in her potential to make healthy choices to begin and sustain recovery

We don’t make assumptions about a resident’s experience and needs based on her age, weight, or patterns of dieting and exercise. 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 Orthorexia 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 by design.

Comprehensive, Integrated Treatment and Recovery

Every woman who seeks recovery from orthorexia must develop tools she can trust to healthfully experience emotions that trigger her preoccupation with food. We work with our residents help them learn to recognize their feelings and identify the conscious choices they are making throughout their day. Through constant, supportive reinforcement women learn to trust the tools we give them in situations where they would have previously turned to orthorexia. 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 eating disorder treatment plans use approaches proven to help women learn to manage their emotions and develop the tools to recover from eating disorders. Specific examples 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 Emotions

Expressive therapy has been clinically proven to promote healing and recovery, in addition to providing a needed creative outlet for women during eating 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
  • 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

We believe that healthy changes in eating behavior begin with listening and empathy, not with policing or judgment. Many women and girls come to residential treatment for anorexia, bulimia or orthorexia with great apprehension about meals. They may have significant anxiety over the quality of the food, and apprehension over consuming any food prepared by others.

Our eating disorder treatment staff focuses on creating an environment where a woman can feel safe expressing the emotions related to food, and realize that she is not alone with her illness, or in her struggle to cope with her feelings. Our nutritional philosophy focuses on supporting women as they seek this awareness and helping them develop confidence in their ability to make healthy choices about food. Experiential activities like shopping and cooking give each resident the chance to practice skills needed to overcome orthorexia in the real world while still surrounded by eating disorder treatment professionals who understand her recovery challenges.

We recognize that successful eating disorder treatment must also equip a woman’s family to engage in a process of recovery during and following 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 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?

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