Tailored Therapy Treats Eating Disorders

How Treatment Specialized for an Eating Disorder Enhances Positive Outcomes

As anyone suffering from an eating disorder can attest, it is next to impossible to will oneself back to healthy, normal eating patterns once the disorder has become entrenched. Because eating disorders are so varied, and the roots of each type of eating disorder so complex, a specialized treatment provider who has advanced knowledge and experience in eating disorders is critical to recovery.

A professional in the treatment of eating disorders will examine the physio-psychological elements of the disorder to reveal the causal factors that underlie it that have lead to the maladaptive eating behaviors. The three most common types of eating disorders are:

Anorexia nervosa
Anorexia is characterized by extreme restriction of food, which, left untreated eventually leads to dangerous health conditions including malnutrition and cardiac arrhythmia, even death. Symptoms include restricting caloric intake to fewer than is necessary for healthy body weight, a distorted self-image, use of laxatives to eliminate more weight, and fainting.

Bulimia nervosa
Bulimia is characterized by a cycle of binge eating followed by purging or over-exercising, causing health problems such as tooth decay, electrolyte imbalances, dehydration, and wounds in the mouth. Symptoms include eating of large amounts of food, eating in isolation, vomiting after meals, and excessive exercising.

Binge eating disorder
Binge eating disorder is similar to bulimia, where excessive amounts of food are consumed to the point of feeling sick, but purging is absent. Instead, diets and fasting may be utilized to offset the high caloric intake and the feelings of shame and guilt. Symptoms include eating in secret, obesity or heart problems, eating in response to emotional turmoil, and eating more rapidly than normal.

How Specialized Psychotherapy Can Help

When seeking treatment for an eating disorder, it is important to first locate a therapist who is an eating disorder specialist. Often there are multiple health providers assigned to the patient, such as a dietician, a primary care physician, and a psychotherapist.

An intensive outpatient program tailored specifically for treating eating disorders is an effective option for many. However, sometimes the eating disorder requires a higher level of care, such as for someone battling anorexia who may have life-threatening medical conditions. In this case, a full-immersion residential treatment program would be indicated.

There are several types of psychotherapy that have shown to be especially effective in treating eating disorders. They include:

• Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
• Interpersonal psychotherapy
• Family therapy
• Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)
• Group therapy
• Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)
• Psychodynamic therapies

Because eating disorders do not have a single cause or take a predictable course, matching the right mode of therapy or therapies to the specific disorder is another benefit of seeking treatment with a therapist who specializes in eating disorders. Some therapists may be members of prominent organizations such as the Academy of Eating Disorders or the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals.

The type of eating disorder and the severity of the disorder will help determine the treatment course of action, including whether medications will be part of the treatment plan. Recovery from any eating disorder is a long process. Having a specialist involved who will integrate treatment and create a long-term recovery plan is ideal in achieving a successful outcome.

Adjunct Therapies for Eating Disorders

It has been found that adding certain activities and adjunct therapies to the standard treatment plan enhances success in treating eating disorders. This multimodal treatment for eating disorders addresses various aspects of the disorder via multiple routes, improving the chances of real reform.

Popular adjunct therapies include:

Patients who participate in yoga have experienced a greater decrease in eating disorder symptoms. This can be attributed to the yoga lessons assisting in managing stress and improving mood, as well as benefits associated with physical exercise.

Because food obsession is at the heart of eating disorders, learning how to cook a quick, easy, healthy meal is essential to recovery. It is important to normalize the relationship with food by learning how to plan meals, shop for ingredients, and prepare the meal.

Casa Serena Can Help

Once the decision has been made to seek treatment to help yourself or a loved one with an eating disorder, the highest hurdle has been cleared. Taking that first step is the key that opens the door to a full recovery, and selecting a specialized treatment provider is the next step.

Casa Serena understands the complexities of an eating disorder and offers a group of trained professionals who specialize in treating them. Many of the counselors at Casa Serena have themselves once struggled with an eating disorder, so they bring compassion to the healing work they do each day, and have a personal understanding of what it takes to recover. Contact our friendly staff for answers to any questions at (925) 682-8252.

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