Getting a diagnosis for an eating disorder is hard, but it is the first step towards recovery. Fortunately, treatment is possible and involves a combination of psychotherapy, nutrition education and counseling, and medical monitoring. Fortunately, many treatment centers for eating disorders are available to help and guide the affected individuals toward healing and healthier lives without any underlying complications and issues. Understanding what these rehabs offer and what to expect during treatment can help ease the stigma and fright associated with the whole process.
Treatment Process at Eating Disorder Recovery Centers
The process of treating an eating disorder at an ED rehab can vary depending on several factors, like the facility one chooses, the nature and severity of eating disorders, etc. Most rehabs follow the following steps to ensure that a person completes recovery:
- Initial assessment and treatment plan: This step usually involves conducting a pre-assessment to understand the type of ED a person suffers from and its severity, along with their past medical and psychiatric history. Using this information, an expert panel makes a treatment plan that best benefits a patient.
- Identifying resources: Following the development of a treatment plan, experts may discover the resources available for a patient in their community to meet their goals.
- Maintaining aftercare: Most psychiatric issues, including ED, require long-term care and management. To ensure that each patient receives the right level of care, the team compiles an aftercare plan to help them remain healthy and active even after they leave rehab.
Following are some components of an ideal ED program offered by most eating disorders recovery centers:
Since an eating disorder is a mental health issue with underlying psychological roots and triggers, its treatment must involve psychotherapy with a mental health expert regularly. Depending on the severity, these sessions may last from a few weeks or months to years. The purpose of therapy is to help a person:
- Replace their unhealthy habits with healthy ones
- Normalize the underlying eating patterns to target a healthy weight
- Improve the overall mood
- Rekindle broken relationships
- Develop healthier problem-solving skills
- Learn how to monitor the underlying mood and eating
- Explore healthier techniques and strategies to cope with stressful circumstances
Most ED treatment plans involve a combination of various therapies, such as the following:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy: This type of psychotherapy focuses on thoughts, feelings, and behaviors associated with their underlying eating disorder. After helping a patient acquire healthy eating behavior, it helps them learn how to identify and change distorted thoughts that may have led to these problems in the first place.
- Group cognitive behavioral therapy: This type of psychotherapy involves attending counseling sessions with other people struggling with similar eating disorders. These group sessions help people acknowledge that they are not alone in their struggles and allow them to seek support and advice from each other. The connections people form during these sessions sometimes remain for life and serve as support systems.
- Family-based therapy: During this therapy, family members help their loved ones learn to restore healthy eating patterns and apply them to achieve a healthy weight. This type of therapy is particularly beneficial in underage patients, such as teenagers.
The best eating disorder treatment center includes registered dieticians and other nutrition specialists on their treatment team to help clients understand their eating disorders and help them come up with a plan to maintain healthy eating habits. The following are some goals of nutrition education at most ED treatment centers:
- Slowly work toward achieving a healthy weight
- Learn and practice meal planning
- Understand how nutrition affects the body,
- Establish regular eating patterns, such as three meals a day with regular snacking in between
- Correct health problems secondary to malnutrition or obesity caused by an eating disorder
- Take steps to avoid bingeing or dieting
Some rehabs for eating disorders provide medications to help a person recover effectively from the underlying disorder. However, remember that medications alone cannot heal these disorders, and they must always be combined with simultaneous psychotherapy. Antidepressants are the most common group of medications a rehab may provide to people with purging or binge-eating behaviors. Moreover, these medications may also help those with bulimia nervosa, as most of them usually suffer from underlying depression or anxiety. Some people may also need medications to address issues occurring secondary to their eating disorder.
Day Treatment Programs
Many treatment centers for eating disorders provide their clients with day treatment programs that extend over a couple of hours every day, multiple times a week. These programs may include individual and group therapy, medical care, nutrition education, and structured eating sessions.
Residential Treatment Programs
Residential treatment at eating disorder rehabs can help a person engage in therapy while living on-site under 24/7 expert supervision. These programs are typically beneficial for people who require long-term for a chronic or severe eating disorder. Residential care is also ideal for people who have been to the hospital multiple times or have sought lesser-intensive treatments in the past with no success.
Medical Treatment for Co-Occurring Health Issues
Eating disorders can exert multiple serious health issues, especially in people who have been suffering from them for a long time. The type of these health complications depends on the type and severity of the issue a person suffers from and may include one or more of the following.
- Heart problems
- Electrolyte imbalances, lead to abnormalities in the functioning of nerves, heart, and muscles
- High blood pressure
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Digestive problems
- Dental cavities and erosion of the surface of teeth
- Stunted growth secondary to poor nutrition due to disorders like anorexia
- Low bone density (osteoporosis)
- Lack of menstruation
- Mental health conditions, for example, anxiety, depression, addiction, or obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Issues with infertility and pregnancy
What psychotherapy options can I expect to engage in at the best eating disorder treatment center?
Most luxury eating disorder treatment centers provide different types of therapy approved by the relevant national health authorities. These therapies may include the following:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Dietetic advice and support
- Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
- Supported meals
- Body image workshops
- Occupational therapy, including food exposure interventions
- Parent/carer support sessions
What levels of care do ED treatment centers provide?
A patient can expect to engage in one or more of the following levels of care at the best eating disorder treatment center in the United States:
- Inpatient Treatment: This level of care allows patients to remain on the rehab premises to receive round-the-clock care and treatment and control their severe eating disorders.
- Day Care Options: In this level of care, patients visit a chosen rehab to engage in intensive, well-structured programs but return home every day in the end.
- Outpatient Treatment: This program includes weekly sessions and individual and group therapy appointments with therapists and counselors. These sessions are the least intensive and are run to provide continued support to patients who have already completed a more intensive program.
Who is on the specialist team at eating disorder rehabs?
The treatment team at an eating disorders rehab may include various specialists, such as the following:
- Physicians (including pediatrician, primary care physician, etc.)
- Case managers
- Additional therapists per individual needs (such as art therapist, yoga therapist, trainers, etc.)
In general, a primary care physician, such as a family doctor, internist, or pediatrician, maybe the first one to pick up the hints of an underlying eating disorder. These experts refer patients to local dieticians, therapists, or eating disorder recovery centers as needed.
How long does residential treatment for an eating disorder last?
The best eating disorder residential treatment program typically runs for at least 28 days. However, experts recommend engaging in longer treatment programs, such as those running for 60 to 90 days or even more, for optimal recovery. The idea is to engage a patient in a treatment program for as long as they need to recover from the underlying eating disorder and restart a healthy life.