How To Treat Eating Disorders

Is a loved one suffering from an eating disorder? Find out why quick eating disorder treatment is important and what the best treatment options are.

Eating disorders are serious forms of mental illness that also affect physical and emotional wellness. According to the American Society for Nutrition, approximately 24 million U.S. residents have eating disorders. Those disorders affect multiple aspects of their daily lives. For example, people with eating disorders often avoid social eating situations, such as going out to dinner or attending parties. They are also often self-conscious about their bodies.

Many people with eating disorders hide their illnesses well for a while. Eventually, they can become physically ill enough to require hospitalization or have other noticeable issues. If you have a loved one who is exhibiting signs of possibly having an eating disorder, convincing him or her to get help is important. However, it may not be easy. Learning about all the available treatment options and presenting them to your loved one in a calm, caring way can help. The information provided below can help you learn more about eating disorders, their implications, and their treatments.

What Are Eating Disorders?

Eating disorders are illnesses that cause distortions in the mental connections people make with food. They affect how people view their own body images in distorted and unhealthy ways. Eating disorders can affect how much people eat, the types of foods they are willing to eat, and how they go about the process of eating. For example, some eating disorders cause sufferers to force themselves to vomit after eating. Eating disorders can also completely alter general behavior patterns. People with eating disorders often go out of their way to avoid eating in public.

Why Are Eating Disorders Dangerous?

Eating disorders are dangerous for several reasons. For instance, they can increase feelings of depression and isolation, leading to suicide. They also create extreme physical health hazards. Those health hazards can lead to death if untreated. Possible medical side effects of eating disorders are different for each disorder, but some common health hazards include:

  • Esophageal Damage

  • Osteoporosis

  • Various Vitamin Deficiencies

  • Extreme Emaciation or Obesity (Depending on the Type of Disorder)

  • Bloating

  • Muscle Mass Loss

  • Heart Damage

  • Intestinal Blockages

  • Sleep Pattern Disruptions

  • Dry Skin

  • Brittle Nails

  • Hair Loss

What Are the Different Types of Eating Disorders?

Eating disorders can have many different symptoms, but they usually fall in certain categories. Most sufferers have forms of primary eating disorders. Some of the most common eating disorders include:

  • Anorexia Nervosa is characterized by a fear of gaining weight. Sufferers often go to extreme lengths to restrict their food intakes, including vomiting (purging) after eating. Anorexia sufferers also often exercise excessively. The combination of eating too little and exercising too much can lead to headaches, fainting spells, and various heart-related complications.

  • Bulimia Nervosa is a disorder that causes sufferers to binge eat. They often consume excessive amounts of food at a time. However, they also experience extreme negative feelings regarding eating. As a result, they try to compensate for their binges by removing the food from their systems as quickly as possible. Common methods of doing that include purging by vomiting, exercising to excess, and taking diuretic medications or laxatives.

  • Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) is a disorder that causes sufferers to not want to eat food at all or only eat a few specific foods that do not provide enough caloric intake or nutritional value. Often, ARFID sufferers choke, gag, or vomit when they try to eat foods. They typically sustain themselves by taking nutritional supplements or require medical intervention to restore or maintain nutritional balance within their bodies.

What Types of Treatments for Eating Disorders Are Available?

In some cases, eating disorders are associated with other forms of mental illnesses, such as depression. Medications can help control symptoms in those situations. However, the primary treatment for eating disorders is therapy or counseling. Eating disorder therapy and counseling comes in several forms. For example, consultation with nutritional therapists can help sufferers develop more healthy eating habits. Behavioral and psychological therapies, including family therapy and various behavioral therapies can also help. Sometimes those therapies are performed on an outpatient basis. However, some eating disorder sufferers require more intensive residential treatment.

What Are Some Top Facilities for Eating Disorder Treatment?

Sometimes eating disorder treatment is available locally. However, when residential treatment is required, travel is often necessary. That is particularly true if the patient wants the best possible care. Here is a brief overview of some of the top U.S. treatment centers for eating disorders:

  • Canopy Cove is located in Tallahassee, Florida. It offers outpatient and residential treatment programs. Treatment plans are customized for each patient. Canopy Cove treatment programs also incorporate therapies utilizing horses.

  • Sheppard Pratt provides eating disorder treatment for patients of all ages. Inpatient and outpatient treatments are available. The Baltimore, Maryland facility also offers partial hospitalization programs for patients who need additional care.

  • The Center for Discovery has locations in 14 U.S. states, including California and New York. It has been successfully treating eating disorder patients for approximately 25 years, as of 2022. Its programs include dietary counseling, as well as cognitive and exposure therapies.

  • The Eating Recovery Center has locations in many states, including Colorado. It offers residential eating disorder treatment for adults. Exact treatments vary by state, but it offers several unique features, including virtual and alumni support. It also provides an online resource library, access to eating disorder podcasts, and various other resources program attendees and alumni can access online at any time.

  • The Emily Program has facilities in four states, including Minnesota. It specializes in providing home-like environments where patients can experience real-life eating scenarios and receive various types of therapy. Programs are available for children and adults.

How Much Does Admittance to an Eating Disorder Treatment Center Cost?

A residential eating disorder program can cost $30,000 or more. That is due to the complexity of eating disorder treatment. Often, it requires a combination of medical supervision, medications, psychological therapy, and practical nutritional counseling. The exact cost of treatment depends on the facility, the needs of the patient, and the type of insurance coverage the patient has. If you are seeking to enroll yourself or a loved one in such a program, discuss those costs up front with facility administrators. Also, remember to factor in costs such as those for travel to get to and from your chosen facility.