Eating Disorders Treatments
Eating disorders can be treated and a healthy weight restored. The sooner these disorders are diagnosed and treated, the better the outcomes are likely to be. Because of their complexity, eating disorders require a comprehensive treatment plan involving medical care and monitoring, psychosocial interventions, nutritional counseling and, when appropriate, medication management.
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Dialectical Behavior Therapy
Originally developed in the 1970s by Marsha M. Linehan, Ph.D., DBT is a well-researched approach proven to be highly effective in treating eating disorders. DBT teaches effective coping skills using the four DBT skill sets: Core Mindfulness, Emotion Regulation, Distress Tolerance and Interpersonal Effectiveness.
Art therapy takes place in a supportive environment that gives individuals suffering from eating disorders a chance to explore their emotions and creatively express themselves. In addition to its therapeutic value, art helps patients become more mindful of their emotions and the way they are expressed and helps reduce stress and anxiety.
People with eating disorders often do not recognize or admit that they are ill. As a result, they may strongly resist getting and staying in treatment. Family members can be extremely helpful in ensuring that the person with an eating disorder receives needed care and rehabilitation. By staying involved throughout treatment and participating in family therapy sessions, workshops and relapse prevention planning, they play an integral role in their loved one's eating disorder recovery.
There are therapists who are especially experienced at helping people who suffer from eating disorders. Therapy provides a safe, comforting, and confidential setting in which to receive the kind of help that can best determine and treat any underlying emotional or psychological causes and encourage new, healthier eating habits while also addressing the effects compulsive eating has had on other areas of the person's life, including family, friends, and work.
Group therapy provides an outlet for individuals with eating disorders to give and receive support and feedback and practice more effective communication skills. A sense of camaraderie, understanding and fellowship emerges from group therapy sessions, allowing patients to witness the recovery process in themselves and others. Group therapy also gives patients an opportunity to give back and to challenge the distorted thought and behavior patterns they see in others.
A support group where members share common experiences and problems may be able to help individuals with eating disorders. These groups can be integral to the long-term healing process, helping to prevent eating disorder relapse and encouraging individuals to continue working toward better health.
Some eating disorder treatment programs provide nutrition therapy and/or education about balanced eating. Patients may go on restaurant or grocery store outings and practice making healthy, wholesome food choices. With help, patients can begin to re-establish a healthy relationship with food, treating it as fuel for the body rather than something to fear or loathe. Other goals include learning to recognize and respond to hunger cues and understanding appropriate portion sizes.
Some eating disorder programs provide cooking classes and/or basic culinary education to help patients develop a healthier relationship with food. Patients may prepare meals, grow a garden or go on educational food shopping outings to practice their new skills.
Eating disorders affect various systems in the human body, damaging vital organs such as the brain and heart, reducing blood pressure and thyroid function, and resulting in irregular heart rhythms and heart failure. People with eating disorders often have co-occurring psychiatric illnesses, such as depression and anxiety. A medical team, which may include nurses, doctors and specialists, will monitor and treat eating disorder symptoms and any additional medical issues that arise.
Individuals with eating disorders may require assessments, medication and psychiatric care in order to effectively manage their illness. Certain medications have been shown to be helpful for weight maintenance and for resolving mood and anxiety symptoms associated with eating disorders.