Casa Serena Leading Eating Disorders Treatment Provider in Bay Area

Leading Eating Disorders Treatment Provider in Bay Area

Leading Eating Disorders Treatment Provider in Bay Area

In the crowded field of mental health providers who specialize in treating addiction and eating disorders, business longevity is rare.  Start-up facilities come and go at lightening speed, here one day and-Poof!- gone the next.  To survive and thrive in the business of treatment and recovery it takes a clearly-stated vision, an ongoing commitment to the mission statement, compliance with licensing and state regulations, solid business acumen, and, most importantly, a sincere and compassionate desire to help people regain their healthy lives.

Casa Serena, a treatment provider that specialized in eating disorders, is one such success story.   Where some treatment facilities are created and driven solely for financial gain, Casa Serena was started in order to fill a void in the care being offered in the Bay area.  Founder Jackie Holmes, M.Ed., MFT, was motivated on a personal level to start a new kind of eating disorder treatment program.  Jackie had been struggling with bulimia and binge-eating disorder herself and was frustrated by the scarcity of ED services within Contra Costa County while on her path to recovery.  To remedy this, Casa Serena was born in 2005.

Jackie’s immense professional experience, spanning over 30 years in the eating disorders field, includes 18 years as an outpatient therapist, five years as an inpatient clinical coordinator, and a teacher in the Eating Disorders Certification Programs at UC Berkeley and JFK University.  This extensive background made her uniquely qualified to put together a successful intensive outpatient program (IOP) like Casa Serena.  An IOP provides more structure and a wider range of services than a typical outpatient program, offering a middle ground between residential inpatient care and an outpatient program.  Clients benefit from the intensity of the program, but are still be able to go home each day.

Casa Serena offers specialized programs for teens and adults, each program customized to address the specific needs and differences between these age groups.  The adult program meets in the evenings to allow for clients to be able to work at a job or parent their children, where the teen program meets mid-afternoon, allowing for enough time in the evening for homework.

The components of each program are also tailored to the demographic.  The adult program includes group therapy, yoga and mindfulness group, nutrition class, supportive meal groups, body image class, living skills, and dialectic behavioral therapy skills training (DBT).  The teen program offers one-on-one counseling sessions, group therapy, community meetings, multi-family group, expressive arts, dinner-prep class, as well as the nutrition class, body image class, and living skills class.
Casa Serena has built its stellar reputation over the past eleven years by providing compassionate support and care to its many clients, and by focusing on the importance of family as an important component in the treatment and recovery of eating disorders.   The Multi-Family group allows family members and loved ones to gain a broader understanding of the multiple dynamics inherent in eating disorders, allowing for open communication between all parties.  In the Multi-Family group new skills are taught to help family members to better support their loved one in recovery, including better communication skills.

Casa Serena Can Help

Casa Serena has flourished all these years because it remains dedicated to the wellbeing and personal growth of each and every client.  The amazing staff at Casa Serena includes clinical therapists of the highest caliber, as well as professional specialists, such as dietitians and yoga practitioners, all ready to help clients discover their personal journey back to healthy eating and overall wellness.  Our experts frame every step of the recovery path in compassion and understanding, as some of them have also battled eating disorders personally.  They understand the multi-dimensional aspect of how eating disorders originate and the challenges in treating them.  Contact Casa Serena today at (925) 682-8252.

Binge Eating Disorder Linked to Social Anxiety

The Vicious Cycle of Binge Eating and Social Isolation

The connection between negative body image and anxiety around social interactions is extremely common, and often has its origins in the pre-teens.  The usual pattern follows a predictable path:  Adolescent is bullied about their appearance, size, or weight which ultimately causes the victim to seek solace in the safety of their home.  When other kids are out attending dances or football games, someone with a negative body image sits in their bedroom, saving the world from having to even look at them.

Self-disgust over perceived flaws become unreasonably magnified, causing anxiety, which in time can lead to a desire to quell these negative emotions.  Many times the individual being teased about their weight or appearance buys into the cruel criticism about their looks, and begins to believe they are so unappealing to look at that they might as well save others from having to look at them.  This results in a social phobia or social anxiety, where intense fear becomes associated with being in a social setting where one can be judged.

To manage this anxiety, some young people resort to substance abuse—drugs and/or alcohol to ease the emotional pain caused by the bullying and self-disgust.  For some, the substance abused is food.  The repetitive cycle that emerges is very similar to a substance addiction, with many of the same characteristics present.

What is Binge Eating Disorder?

Binge eating disorder (BED) is exactly what its name implies:  Recurrent episodes (versus occasional overeating) of eating large amounts of food in a subconsciously attempt to numb negative emotions, such as a deep sense of worthlessness, shame, and self-loathing related to a negative body image.  The consuming of excessive amounts of food has become a BED when the following criteria are present, as defined by the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM-5):

  1. Recurrent episodes of binge eating. An episode of binge eating is characterized by both of the following:
    • Eating, in a discrete period of time (e.g., within any 2-hour period), an amount of food that is definitely larger than what most people would eat in a similar period of time under similar circumstances.
    • A sense of lack of control over eating during the episode (e.g., a feeling that one cannot stop eating or control what or how much one is eating).
  2. The binge eating episodes are associated with three (or more) of the following:
    • Eating much more rapidly than normal.
    • Eating until feeling uncomfortably full.
    • Eating large amounts of food when not feeling physically hungry.
    • Eating alone because of feeling embarrassed by how much one is eating.
    • Feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed, or very guilty afterward.
  3. Marked distress regarding binge eating is present.
  4. The binge eating occurs, on average, at least once a week for 3 months.

The binge eating is not associated with the recurrent use of inappropriate    compensatory behaviors (e.g., purging) as in bulimia nervosa and does not occur exclusively during the course of bulimia nervosa or anorexia nervosa.

BED is the most common of all the eating disorders, with about 3.5% of women, 2% of men, and 1.6% of teens suffering from it.  It can lead to various debilitating health risks, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, heart disease, and gallbladder disease.  Just as devastating, living with a BED can severely curtail one’s ability to function socially, at school, or at work.

A study out of Yale University in 2012 examined the link between social anxiety and the eating disorder psychopathology in BED.  By studying 113 participants with BED who were administered a battery of tests and participated in various clinical interviews they were able to conclude that there was higher levels of social anxiety were associated with binge eating frequency in patients with BED.

What does BED Look Like?

There are certain characteristics common among those who suffer from BED.  Like a drug or alcohol addiction, people suffering from a BED obsess about their next binge episode, planning for it and going to great lengths to hide it from others.  Also, like with a drug addiction, there is an inability to cease using the food in a self-abusive manner, even though the negative consequences are beginning to cause them great distress, such as weight gain and social isolation.

Signs that a loved one may have a BED include:

  • Finding empty food wrappers hidden under beds, in closets, drawers, etc.
  • Secretive food behaviors, like stealing, hiding or hoarding food, and insisting on eating alone
  • Unusual eating patterns develop, such as not eating at the usual mealtimes, eating all day long, skipping meals, developing food rituals, engaging in fasting or repetitive dieting

In addition to the tendency to avoid social situations where they feel they will be ridiculed and teased, other co-occurring mental conditions may be present, such as depression.  The vicious cycle of shame and self-disgust over their negative body image leads to the use of food as a form of temporary comfort, which then leads to self-loathing and depression after they have binged—just entrenching the problem further.

Casa Serena can Help

At Casa Serena, we understand that one of the first steps in treating an individual with BED is to identify the source of the emotional pain that has led to the disorder.  Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is considered the most effective treatment modality for identifying the triggers and thought patterns, and replacing them with healthy thought and behavioral responses.  The compassionate staff at Casa Serena helps to navigate those with a BED towards the healthy, productive life that they deserve.  Contact us today at (925) 682-8252.


The Benefits of Intensive Outpatient Treatment for Eating Disorders

 As with any important decision in life, choosing the right treatment option for an eating disorder (ED) comes down to need and lifestyle.  Factors such as the severity of the ED, finances, and family/work/academic obligations will determine whether an individual is in need of intensive inpatient care, basic outpatient services, or an intensive outpatient program (IOP). An IOP is at the center of the treatment spectrum for an eating disorder, an elevation above basic outpatient services that may not provide enough structure or breadth in services to adequately address the needs of the client.  Intensive outpatient programs often fulfill the needs of a patient just discharged from an inpatient program, allowing for some independence without sacrificing the important treatment elements they have become accustomed to while in a residential program.

The various treatment levels of care for an ED include:

Inpatient residential treatment:  A dedicated residential treatment facility is indicated if the disorder is deeply entrenched and life threatening, where physical and/or psychological instability may require acute hospitalization.  An example of this would be a serious eating disorder, such as anorexia nervosa, that has impacted vital organs and has caused serious damage to the body.  An inpatient treatment program can offer cardiac monitoring, IV fluids to restore electrolyte balance, and medications for anxiety, depression, and agitation.

Intensive outpatient program:  An IOP is often utilized for patients coming from a residential program, once mental and physical health are stabilized.  Mental health providers have determined their symptoms to be under control and the patients are considered able to function in their daily lives while continuing to progress in recovery.

The Intensive Outpatient Program option is also a step-up in care for those with progressive eating disorders not managed sufficiently in a basic outpatient program.  For these clients, despite working with an outpatient team a couple of times a week, the basic services do not provide enough continuity and structure to produce a stable recovery from their eating disorder.

Basic outpatient services:  A basic outpatient program (BOP) typically offers services two days a week for those with newly formed eating disorders who do not meet the criteria for a higher level of care.  The BOP will offer treatment management and group therapy, but does not offer adjunct treatment services such as art and music therapy, equine therapy, meal therapy, or body image classes.

Teen IOP versus Adult IOP

 The stage of life an individual is in when they seek treatment can dictate not only their scheduling needs, but also the content of the program itself.  Because of the differing demands and responsibilities between an adult and a teen, it is helpful to find an IOP designed accordingly.  Casa Serena offers intensive outpatient programs exclusively, thus making us specialists in this level of care.  Therefore, we have created effective programs designed to accommodate the specific needs of both teens and adults.

Adult IOP:

An IOP designed for adults accommodates the need for the client to continue to work at their job, whether inside or outside the home.  Some adults who have parenting responsibilities may need to be present during the day for their children, while others simply cannot take time off of their jobs.  For adults, an evening program like the one offered at Casa Serena—four hours per evening, four days a week—is a perfect fit.  In the adult program, the client will learn better ways to manage anxiety, depression, or low self-esteem, factors often at the root of the disordered eating habits.  By addressing the underlying issue that fuels the disorder, the clients are taught new coping skills to overcome it.  The adult treatment components include:

  • Classes in body image, nutrition, and living skills
  • Group therapy (4 per month)
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
  • Yoga and mindfulness group (2 per month)
  • Supportive meal groups (4 per month)

Teen IOP:

For teens aged 13-18, the IOP must take their school schedules and academic obligations into account.  Because of this, Casa Serena offers a program that meets after school hours four days a week for four hours, but allows the teen plenty of time in the evening to tackle homework.  The teen years are especially challenging, with emotions running high, hormone shifts, and plenty of peer pressure that can all trigger disordered eating patterns.  With a focus on helping the teens overcome destructive behaviors and developing new coping skills, our teen program helps them manage the issues that drive their eating disorder.  The teen program treatment components include:

  • Individual counseling appointments daily
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
  • Group therapy (2 per month)
  • Yoga and mindfulness group (2 per month)
  • Classes in nutrition, body image, living skills
  • Expressive arts
  • Multi-family group

Casa Serena can Help

Casa Serena provides a well-rounded, comprehensive IOP that is designed for the demands in the client’s life, be they an adult or a teen.  Our expert clinicians treat all clients with the compassion and support necessary to overcome an eating disorder.  Call us today for details about our programs at (925) 682-8252.


Importance of Family Therapy in Treating Eating Disorders

How Family Support and Understanding Aids in E.D. Recovery

No problem exists in a vacuum, a fact that applies to eating disorders as well as any other type of mental health condition. Because as human beings we live within a family structure, it comes as no surprise that, when one member of the family develops disordered eating habits, dysfunction in the family is a likely result.

Why is that? How is it that one family member’s disordered eating causes such disruption in the family dynamic? Because just as it causes deep anguish to witness a loved one suffer from any physical illness, it is just as upsetting to watch a family member battle a serious eating disorder. It is painful for parents and siblings to watch their loved one in the throes of anorexia, bulimia, or binge-eating disorder.

Family members often feel helpless while they watch their loved one waste away, with no sense of power to stop the process. The fear of losing them can unleash powerful emotions, such as frustration, anxiety, and anger. Without a basic understanding of how and why an eating disorder has made its way into the family unit, confusion, blame, guilt, and shame begin to color familial relationships, causing disharmony.

How Family Therapy Can Help

Once it is understood that a complex mix of factors cause an eating disorder, the family learns it is not in their best interest to lay blame on each other for having “caused” the illness. A therapist in a family group environment helps much more by focusing on educating the family members about how an eating disorder evolves and how it affects the brain of their loved one, rather than by assigning blame. Effective family therapy is centered on improving communication skills between family members, and equipping them with problem-solving skills to use throughout recovery.

Family group therapy can also help families cope with the stress of the eating disorder. Often, the eating disorder has changed their loved one’s personality, making them irritable and angry as they grapple with the powerful illness, and this causes strain and tension in the home. Group therapy gives family members an opportunity to openly communicate how stressful it is to walk on eggshells in the presence of the sufferer. In the case of anorexia, the starvation has a significant impact on their cognitive processes, so they can’t think or reason correctly. Once weight is restored, the moodiness and irritability usually subside, allowing for a more peaceful home environment and healthier interactions between family members.

Teaching the family about what they can expect in the recovery process is a valuable component of family therapy. Knowledge is a powerful tool in establishing an atmosphere that is conducive to loving support and understanding. Gaining specific skills for family members to employ during their loved one’s recovery phase is important, as it empowers the family. Meaningful participation with their loved one on the path of recovery gives families a sense of helpfulness versus the helplessness they felt before.

Casa Serena’s Multi-Family Group

At Casa Serena, our Family Education and Support Group involves a group of multiple families who gather together with our clients, their loved ones. In this large group setting, family members can learn from other families and gain new perspectives. The depth of knowledge and experience provided by our expert clinical therapists gives family members a new frame of reference and helpful tools. Compassion is emphasized, as family members are encouraged to support their loved one while issues around food, weight, or size are resolved in recovery. Contact Casa Serena today at (925) 682-8252.


Don’t Oversimplify the Cause of Eating Disorders

Common Misunderstandings about the Cause of an Eating Disorder Dismiss Important Factors

We humans can be a simple-minded breed. In order to make sense of difficult or challenging issues in our lives we seek ways to make quick and easy assessments, avoiding the work involved in plumbing the layers of complexity to get to the real root of a problem. This tendency to find a simple explanation for a serious condition applies all too often when trying to understand eating disorders. When a loved one is in the grips of an eating disorder, there is a desire to explain it away. The usual default most people turn to is that he or she is so obsessed with emulating the svelte, toned bodies of their favorite celebrities that they are willing to starve themselves to look like them. Or, that the images they have grown up with—the Barbie dolls with the microscopic waistlines, the emaciated fashion models teetering on the brink of collapse on the catwalk, or overly airbrushed images in the print media—are what’s really to blame for the unhealthy desire to be stick thin. No one wants to face the music, to dig below the trite superficial reasons for disordered eating and expose the often-complicated psychological underpinnings to the disorder. Why is that? It’s because looking under the hood may reveal damage that is unsettling and difficult to accept—like ignoring a funny sound your car is making thinking it’s just in need of a simple tune-up, when in reality the transmission is going out. Who wants to deal with that?

The BioPsychoSocial Roots of an Eating Disorder

The harsh reality is that deep psychological disorders, personality traits, or even genetics can be the causes of a serious mental health condition manifesting itself in disordered eating habits. Addressing these uncomfortable possibilities is difficult for the parents, spouses, or friends of the person suffering from an ED. There may be feelings of guilt, shame, or confusion after uncovering the painful truths that may be at the root of their loved one’s problem; it is much easier to simply blame the media or culture for it. The different types of eating disorders (anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder) each have their own unique set of factors that may have contributed to the ED. For instance, someone with anorexia may be a perfectionist where someone with bulimia may have an impulsive nature. Some common underlying factors across the ED spectrum may include:

– Anxiety and/or depression
– Sensitivity to reward and punishment
– Excessive persistence (especial in anorexia nervosa)
– Perfectionism
– Sense of having no control over one’s life
– Coping skill deficits
– Trauma, such as physical or sexual abuse or the death of a loved one
– General feelings of inadequacy
– Genetic predisposition if close family members have ED
– Altered brain circuitry in anterior insula, striatal region, and anterior ventral striatal pathways
– Disruption in serotonin pathway
– Low self-esteem
– Family dysfunction or disruption such as divorce
– Impulsivity (especially in bulimia nervosa)

While it is true that an eating disorder results in the obsession with food, appearance, weight, and size, what drives the individual to become so obsessed is a complex and varied set of factors. If eating disorders were simply the result of a culture obsessed with thinness, why is it that only about 3% of the American public struggle with one? Wouldn’t the effects of the societal pressures to conform to an idealized physical size or shape affect everyone in the same way? Since this is not the case, it points to the certainty that the development of an eating disorder has its underpinnings in factors other than simply cultural influences.

Casa Serena can help

The compassionate professionals at Casa Serena are trained to identify which set of factors is contributing to an individual’s eating disorder. Understanding that the reasons are varied and unique to each individual, our program is successful because we get to the root cause of the disorder and will guide the individual to a path of recovery based on their own individualized treatment plan. At Casa Serena we place understand the importance of a support system, so family involvement is considered a key component in the individual’s long-term recovery. Call us today at (925) 682-8252

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Coping with a Loved One’s Eating Disorder

Heartbreak Often Accompanies the Battle

The emotional impact of witnessing your child or significant other battle a dangerous eating disorder is much the same as if it were any other debilitating physical disease.  The pain, guilt, anger, sorrow, confusion, frustration, and a myriad of other emotions experienced as one watches their loved one suffer a potentially life threatening disease are the very similar.  The heart hurts the same, regardless of the affliction, as it beholds the suffering of anyone we hold dear.

The truth is, just like any other deadly disease, an eating disorders can become a battle waged against a wily foe.  Just as cancer cells dodge valiant efforts to arrest the progression of that disease, widely unseen and powerful psychological mechanisms embedded in disordered eating can also prove formidable adversaries that inhibit recovery.

Just as a person battling a drug or alcohol addiction becomes fixated on their next hit or drink, someone battling an eating disorder is also expending much of their energy on obsessive thoughts and behaviors.  In both cases, significant relationships suffer as a result of neglect.

Built in to the behaviors of a person who suffers from an ED is a tendency to keep people at an emotional distance, usually in an effort to avoid judgment for their affliction.  Because at the root of their disorder lies shame and self-loathing, your loved one may believe that they are unlovable or undeserving of your love.  In addition, with their central focus on continuing on the path of disordered eating, your loved one may even see you as an adversary—someone who wants to block his or her efforts.

Sometimes an eating disorder is the result of a subconscious desire to avoid intimacy and authentic relationships.  In order to avoid the perceived messiness of a close emotional connection, some develop eating disorders to sidestep the difficult aspects of relationships, such as experiencing uncomfortable emotions like sorrow, disappointment, insecurity, or anger.  All close relationships include difficult moments and challenges, but someone with disordered thinking looks for ways to avoid possible undesirable emotions, and to exercise some control over the relationships.

Common Emotions Experienced by Loved Ones

Loving someone with an eating disorder can be difficult and trying.  Strong emotions rise up in response to the stress that accompanies the disorder, which may include:

  • Feelings of guilt are usually associated with the parent of a child or young adult suffering from an eating disorder.  It is common for parents to wonder if their parenting itself was to blame for the resulting ED.  They may wonder why they did not recognize the symptoms earlier, or have doubts that they can provide the right support for their child’s recovery.
  • An eating disorder is a serious disease.  Suicide rates among those with all forms of eating disorders are the highest among all mental health disorders, and premature mortality due to organ failure, heart failure, or malnutrition is a daunting reality.  Those who love someone with an eating disorder live with constant fear of losing them.
  • It is difficult to witness a loved one’s decline mental and physical health.  As the disease progresses, there is a pervading sense of loss felt by family and friends who sense their loved one drifting away.  Loved ones feel sad about the life changes an ED imposes on the person they love, while they witness hopes and dreams fade away with the progression of the disease.
  • Loved ones may feel exasperated as they watch an ED take over the victim’s life, and wonder why they seem to make no effort to get help to stop the destructive behaviors.  When a loved one’s attempts to help are shunned, they may become frustrated and angry.  Also, people with an ED may resort to deceptive behaviors to hide their disordered eating habits, leading to angry feelings and a loss of trust among friends and family.

 As with other mental health or addiction disorders, loved ones may not know how to help.  The disordered thoughts and habits confuse them because they seem irrational, so they don’t know how to act or what to say, or even how to support the person with the eating disorder.

 We Can Help

 At Casa Serena our caring and supportive professionals understand the difficult emotions that family and friends experience when their loved one is afflicted with an eating disorder.  Our individualized treatment plans include weekly multi-family groups that help loved ones address issues related to the eating disorder dynamics in the family and within significant relationships.  Individual family counseling is also available when needed.  Casa Serena provides education to the family as a tool to support their loved one’s path to a full recovery.  Call us today (925) 682-8252!



Treating Eating Disorders with Psych Meds

Treatment for an eating disorder commonly includes a multi-disciplinary approach with the psychotherapist and psychiatrist as the primary treatment providers. In addition, a licensed dietician and a primary care physician make up the rest of the team involved in the care of the patient.   Depending on the type of eating disorder diagnosed, use of specific pharmacotherapy can also be effective.

To date, there has not been much success in treating anorexia nervosa with psychotropic drugs to cure the physical aspects of the disease. Indeed, food is still the best medicine for regaining physical wellbeing for anorectics. However, some SSRIs have shown promise in treating the underlying mental health conditions that accompany the eating disorder, once a healthy weight has been attained.

There has been much more success treating patients with psych meds who present with bulimia nervosa or a binge eating disorder. It has been found that bulimics respond well to antidepressants, even if they are not suffering from depression.

 Drug Treatment for Anorexia Nervosa

The most challenging eating disorder to treat is anorexia. Psychotherapy remains the primary tool used to stabilize and treat this eating disorder, as there are typically serious mental health issues that accompany the disordered eating. To date, there has been little evidence that medication is effective in treating anorexia, but when mood disorders such as depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder accompany the disorder, Fluoxetine (Prozac) has helped the anorectic patient manage these.

Side effects of these selective serotonin uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are generally mild and tolerated well for most patients. Side effects can include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Decreased interest in sex
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Weight gain
  • Agitation

If the patient does not tolerate the SSRI, then their psychiatrist may prescribe olanzapine (Zyprexa), a psychotropic drug used primarily to treat schizophrenia. In a patient who has anorexia nervosa, olanzapine can help them gain weight and modify their obsessive thinking. Side effects of olanzapine include:

  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Drowsiness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dyskinesia (movement disorder)

In addition, anti-anxiety medications can be effective in reducing the anxiety the patient may experience before eating.

Drug Treatment for Bulimia Nervosa

 Patients diagnosed with bulimia nervosa tend to respond well to fluoxetine in reducing the binge eating and purging. This is the only antidepressant that is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat bulimia nervosa.

In addition to fluoxetine, another group of antidepressant drugs called tricyclics (Norpramin, Tofranil, and Elavil) have been prescribed with some success. They have similar side effects as the antidepressants, but also have more risk of overdose and drug interactions.

Several placebo-controlled trials have shown topiramate (Topamax) to be effective in controlling binge and purge behaviors. Side effects include taste perversion, difficulty concentrating, and a sensation of pins and needles or skin crawling.

Studies with lithium demonstrated it is ineffective in treating bulimia.

Drug Treatment for Binge Eating Disorder

In treating binge eating disorders, the most effective drug has been topiramate , a medication usually associated with treating epileptic seizures and migraine headaches, as well as bipolar disorder. Side effects are listed above.

SSRIs (Prozac and Zoloft) and appetite suppressants (such as Meridia) have also been effective in treating the binge-eating behaviors. Appetite suppressants can help suppress hunger, which helps in weight loss, but they can have serious side effects. Common side effects of Meridia include dangerous changes in blood pressure, headache, dry mouth, and sleep disturbance.

Get Help Now

Casa Serena offers a safe and supportive environment to treat Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Binge Eating Disorders. Casa Serena incorporates yoga and mindfulness, expressive arts therapy, family education, body image support group, and many more effective program components. Our caring, professional staff can help you reclaim your power and gently guide your or your loved one to a full, healthy recovery. Call (925) 682-8252


Eating Disorders Treated with EMDR

The Treatment Benefits of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

Behind each person’s eating disorder is a unique set of causes. There is no one single reason why an otherwise healthy individual might develop disordered eating habits. Causes range from taking extreme measures to fit in to a perceived societal ideal of physical beauty to trauma to obsessive-compulsive disorder. Often an eating disorder involves a co-occurring condition, such as a substance use disorder or mental health disorder, such as anxiety or depression. No matter the root cause of the eating disorder, treating the individual in order to attain not only a healthy weight, but also a healthy mind is the ultimate goal.

What is EMDR?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a therapeutic treatment technique to manage a variety of disorders, including eating disorders. It was developed in 1987 by psychologist, Francine Shapiro, when she noticed a link between eye movement and cognition, and the resulting effect it had on negative emotions.

EMDR involves a trained therapist initially working with the patient to identify memories or thoughts that are causing emotional pain and distress that may be contributing to a dangerous eating disorder. Once the source of the pain or trauma is determined, the therapist uses horizontal hand movements, sometimes in conjunction with tones played through the patient’s headphones, to provoke a series of eye movements while the patient thinks about the distressing core issue.

The goal of EMDR is to trigger the brain to replicate the process that happens during sleep, where the brain processes the day’s events through images and rapid eye movement (REM phase). The thesis of EMDR is that certain circumstances or events that were causing stress or discord often become softened over night, as the brain’s natural processes help resolve the issue. Often the next morning the troubling event or issue has lost much of its potency.

How Does EMDR Help Eating Disorders?

During the course of the EMDR therapeutic session, memories and emotions can rise to the surface. As the sessions progress, connections can be made between the emotions experienced as a result of reliving the traumatic or distressing memories, and the subsequent anxiety that is contributing to disordered eating.

Revelations that result from EMDR, such things as a controlling parent, parents getting divorced, physical or emotional abuse, or loss and grief, can aid mental health professionals in treating eating disorders by getting to the root cause. That cause becomes the target for the patient’s focus during the sessions, allowing for a change in their behavioral response to it.

Eventually, the intense reaction the patient once had to the trigger becomes less pronounced, and the patient is less motivated to engage in their disordered eating patterns. The process of EMDR, having brought about the revelation of what the underlying issue is, begins to resolve the painful memories, diminishing the patient’s need to continue anorexic or bulimic behaviors.

Help for Eating Disorders

There is help available for those suffering from a debilitating eating disorder. At Casa Serena, our supportive and compassionate professionals can help you in your process of developing life-long skills for healing. It takes courage to ask for help, and we honor that courage and believe in your ability to make positive changes in your life needed to let go of an eating disorder.  Call our Admissions Team today to learn more at (925) 682-8252.

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