Every eating disorder situation is unique. Eating disorders manifest in different ways for different people, possibly as coping mechanisms to various other situations. However, underlying all eating disorders is the truth of an unhealthy relationship with food. This doesn’t mean just consuming food, although this is a major part of it. Any situation including food, whether it’s grocery shopping, cooking or baking, attending parties, eating out, etc. all can become both a struggle and/or a trigger for those struggling with an eating disorder. Additionally, unhealthy relationships with body image and exercising are commonly associated with this disorder as well.
Identifying an eating disorder
Not everyone struggling with an eating disorder will display all the signs and symptoms associated with ED, and symptoms may differ from one form of ED to the next (signs of bulimia are different than those of anorexia). However, it’s important to know overarching disorder signs, as successful intervention has a much higher success rate when ED is detected early:
- Behavior preoccupied by weight loss, dieting and strict eating habits, as well as a focus on one’s external, physical appearance, body size and shape
- Strict calorie counting or restriction/elimination of certain food groups (sugars, fats, carbs)
- Skipping meals or taking very small portions
- Retreating from social activities one would typically enjoy
- Mood swings
- Weight fluctuation
- Feeling faint/dizzy
- Always feeling cold
- Difficulty sleeping
- Poor immune health
Again, this list is not exhaustive but it can provide a general background of some signs and symptoms to monitor.
As with most things, it’s better to take action than let an eating disorder go untreated. Left to its own devices, an ED can take a damaging toll, not only on one’s physical health, but their mental health as well. However, no matter the duration of time, receiving help for eating challenges is necessary.
Treatment depends on the particular form chosen, whether Partial Hospitalization or Outpatient, but all of them focus on reconnecting the mind and body in order to promote a healthy relationship between food and individual. Additionally, group therapy, family therapy and meals overseen by clinicians and dieticians can help guide individuals to making healthy choices for themselves both during treatment and in life post-treatment.
Challenges of treatment
Treatment is hard – no matter what someone is being treated for, it’s a process of reinventing the way one’s brain thinks about something. For struggles with eating disorders, this includes reinventing one’s mental processes in regards to food, exercise and healthy living. It involves reconnecting one’s mind with one’s body and tuning in to what one needs to be truly healthy. And for some, it might include completely reinventing what the concept of “healthy” actually is.
Dropping out of treatment is an exceptionally common trend among individuals seeking help for eating disorders. This is because the process of treating an eating disorder is both mental and physical, which takes a lot of dedication and energy on the part of the client. One has to be open to the possibility of change, both in their thoughts and in their body.
Additionally, eating disorder treatment involves returning to a healthy way of living – eating and exercising included. When struggling with an eating disorder, one crafts a safety net for his/herself through processes which allow them to maintain control over the situation. When in treatment, these so-called safety nets are removed, leaving one in a state of vulnerability. This can be a fearful landscape to find oneself in, but not impossible to navigate. When working alongside a compassionate, knowledgeable therapist, clients are given the skills and the confidence to face these challenges.
Lastly, many medical professionals simply don’t understand eating disorders to a full extent, and are therefore unable to provide the treatment a struggling individual needs. For this reason, it cannot be stressed enough how important it is to find the right program before committing to treatment. An incompatible treatment program can do more damage than good, and leave one feeling unsuccessful and hesitant to seek help again. Conducting proper research is a step of receiving treatment, so making sure your research is thorough can mean the difference between a good experience or a poor one.
Not sure where to start?
Trying to find the right treatment center can be intimidating, but there’s hope. Seeds of Hope offers treatment plans for teens and adults through partial hospitalization and outpatient programs. No matter what one’s struggle with ED looks like or the way it changed his or her life, the therapists at Seeds of Hope strive to offer an unbiased, compassionate, professional and loving atmosphere to offer healing and hope towards a complete recovery. Call (610) 644-6464 to begin your journey toward freedom today.