Working through anorexia and other eating disorders
More than 30 million people in the U.S. are working through anorexia or other eating disorder every year. Eating disorders may occur in practically everyone, regardless of their race, sex, body weight, shape, or size. These mental issues can be very difficult to deal with but are, ultimately, very treatable. Some of the options for treating eating disorders include the best online psychotherapy programs, medications, nutrition education, hospitalization, and group/family therapy. Most often, however, the patient is best served by a combination of those treatments. This article will explain what is exactly considered to be an eating disorder, two of its most common types, as well as available treatment options.
What is an eating disorder?
To put it very simply, an eating disorder is a mental health issue. However, it is a very serious and complex one, as no two persons will experience the exact same symptoms. But there is one common denominator that all people who suffer from an eating disorder share: Fear.
Whether it is fear of gaining weight, fear of not having an adequate appearance, fear of loss of control, or any other similar fear, fear is the main component of an eating disorder. Due to fear being so prevalent in any eating disorder, it is no wonder that the best online anxiety therapy programs work almost equally as well with anorexia or bulimia. Anyone can develop an eating disorder, regardless of age, gender, or ethnicity. Most people believe that eating disorders are mostly found in women but this is definitely not the case. Men and women are quite equal when it comes to eating disorders.
That being said, there are several factors that may increase the risk of developing an eating disorder, such as family history, addiction, and other mental health issues such as OCD. Life-changing events can also help develop an eating disorder, as well as partaking in activities that require the participants to have a very slender build.
There are three “main” types of eating disorders – Anorexia, Bulimia, and Binge Eating Disorder. An interesting fact is that a person can have more than one type of eating disorder at any given time.
What is Anorexia?
Anorexia is a type of eating disorder that is characterized by extreme limiting of calorie intake, as well as limiting oneself to certain food types. People with anorexia usually refuse to eat healthy amounts of food and have a severe obsession with losing even more weight. Over time, anorexia can lead to severe malnutrition and can cause many more complications if left untreated. Since anorexia is a mental health issue, enrolling in one of the best online CBT therapy programs is oftentimes the best solution. However, every person is different and may require a customized treatment plan. But before we get to the treatment options, let’s take a look at the other two main types of eating disorders.
What is Bulimia?
Bulimia is a type of eating disorder where a person eats (or perceives to eat) a large amount of food in a very short time, after which they purge the calories in one way or another. The most common ways of purging calories are vomiting, laxatives, or excessive exercise. Needless to say, this behavior is far from healthy and can develop into serious health complications over time. However, whereas people with anorexia usually have a very low BMI (Body Mass Index), those with bulimia usually maintain their weight near optimal levels.
While this may not seem like an issue, it may make bulimia very difficult to spot. The fact of the matter is that people with bulimia rarely go to treatment on their own and the near-optimal BMI is usually one of the primary reasons why people leave therapy shortly after. But the truth is that bulimia is a very dangerous disorder, as the frequent purges take a heavy toll on the body.
What is a binge eating disorder?
Binge eating disorder is quite similar to bulimia, as it features a large calorie intake in a short period of time. However, the difference between BED and bulimia is what happens with the calories afterward. People that have bulimia purge them, while binge eaters simply feel overly full and experience regret, guilt, depression, and even shame. Over time, these feelings can become full-blown clinical depression. While managing clinical depression is quite possible, it can be very difficult to deal with both binge eating and depression at the same time. It is always best to seek treatment for an eating disorder before it evolves into something nastier.
Working through anorexia or other eating disorders
As mentioned previously, all eating disorders are treatable. However, the treatment for anorexia and other eating disorders differs from one person to another. While it is possible to work through anorexia with a single treatment modality, the full treatment usually involves a combination of two or more of the following treatments:
- Group therapy
- Nutrition education
- Medication for eating disorders
Another thing to note is that your therapist has a huge effect on the entire process. Therefore, it is very important to be able to recognize a bad therapist before things get too out of hand. The best way to start the treatment process is by visiting your primary care practitioner and having them provide you with a referral for a mental health professional that specializes in mental health disorders. Depending on the severity of the disorder, you may also want to get in touch with other medical or dental specialists, as well as a registered dietitian.
Now, let’s take a look at the best ways of working through anorexia or other eating disorders.
Since eating disorders are mental health issues, it is no wonder that psychotherapy is the most important part of their treatment. Psychotherapy involves seeing a mental health professional on a regular basis, usually for a period of a few months. In some cases, however, psychotherapy may take years. The duration of the therapy is one of the primary reasons why is therapy so expensive. Luckily, anorexia is usually covered by insurance, which will take some of the “sting” off.
There are several psychotherapy modalities that are suitable for treating eating disorders, including:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)
- Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
- Psychodynamic psychotherapy
- Interpersonal psychotherapy
Each modality focuses on a particular aspect of your mental health, but they all serve to help you replace unhealthy habits with healthy ones, develop problem-solving skills, improve your mood and relationships, and normalize your food intake and eating patterns.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is one of the best ways of working through anorexia
CBT focuses on thoughts, feelings, and behavior, and the way they interact with the eating disorder. The goal of the therapy is to address any distorted attitudes or views that you might have about your appearance, shape, and/or weight. This is accomplished by behavioral modification, meaning that you will change your response to given situations over time. Basically, CBT will help you recognize any distorted thoughts that you may have and realize how they influence your eating disorder.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
Where CBT focuses on thoughts and feelings, acceptance and commitment therapy focuses on actions. The main goal of this therapy modality is to allow the patient to develop motivation to change their actions, despite the thoughts and feelings that they may have. ACT will help you stay focused on the present moment and accept any thoughts and feelings without judging them.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy
DBT is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on developing greater insight, as well as skills to handle any negative triggers. Basically, it teaches you to identify situations where you might exhibit non-useful behavior, as well as how to handle them in the best possible way. The skills taught by DBT include stress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness, and mindfulness.
Sometimes, the best way to deal with the problem is to look at its root cause. This is exactly what psychodynamic psychotherapy aims to do. The therapy accomplishes this by facilitating a greater understanding of the patient’s mental processes and emotions. But this understanding is but one of the benefits of psychodynamic therapy. Other benefits include increased confidence and a greater ability to face any difficulties and other issues that may arise.
Oftentimes, eating disorders are brought about by peer pressure. Or it may so happen that someone with an eating disorder simply does not know how to deal with interpersonal relationships and develops an eating disorder as a result. Both cases can be treated through interpersonal psychotherapy, a treatment modality that focuses on improving communications and relationships. Other benefits of interpersonal therapy include learning how to cope better and gaining better interpersonal skills.
Dealing with an issue is always at least a bit easier when you know that you are not the only one suffering from it. That is why group therapy is an excellent way of working through anorexia and any other eating disorder, as you will be able to see and hear stories from other people, learn their coping strategies, etc. This treatment modality involves meeting with a group of people who are diagnosed with an eating disorder, under the supervision of mental health professional. The groups are usually comprised of roughly 5 to 15 people, and the sessions last for an hour or two.
To get the best results, you will want to combine group therapy with other forms of psychotherapy. The group can serve as the perfect “sounding board” and provide you with the ideal place to practice the skills that you learn from psychotherapy.
Nutrition education as a way of working through anorexia
Many people simply do not understand why their eating disorder is a problem in the first place. They do not understand nutrition and how nutrition relates to physical problems. Therefore, all they may require is some nutrition education.
This form of treatment focuses on helping patients establish regular eating patterns and correct health problems due to obesity or malnutrition. It also allows the patients to understand the effect of nutrition on the body, practice meal planning, and the necessary steps to avoid binge eating or excessive dieting.
Medication for eating disorders
There are no medications that can cure an eating disorder. However, there are medications that can help you manage it. The most common medications for this purpose are antidepressants, as they can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Your mental health professional may also recommend other medications for a similar purpose. While medications might not help too much when working through anorexia, they may be especially helpful with binge eating disorder and bulimia.
While most eating disorders are treatable from the comfort of your home, serious mental health and physical problems may require hospitalization. For example, many patients that have anorexia become incapable of gaining weight or even eating. Hospitalization is usually the last resort. The goal of hospitalization is to stabilize the symptoms and normalize eating and gaining weight.
There are, basically, two forms of hospitalization: Day treatment, and residential treatment. While there are numerous different programs, they all fall somewhere between the two. Day treatment will have you attend the program for a few hours a day, several hours a week, whereas residential treatment will have you temporarily live at the treatment facility. The choice between the two usually falls down to the severity of the symptoms.
Working through anorexia and other eating disorders can be quite difficult but it is far from impossible. All you need to do is find the combination of treatment modalities that work for you. And the easiest way to compare and review all the best treatment providers, online or offline, is to explore the Consumer Opinion Guide. We are your go-to resource for finding the optimal solution!