When you’re getting ready to start treatment for disordered eating, unfamiliarity with the process can hold you back. The more you learn about treatment, the more comfortable you’ll be and the more likely you are to engage in potentially life-saving intervention.
What is eating disorder treatment like?
If treatment was a one-size-fits-all model, there would surely be lower success rates for eating disorder rehab programs. Eating disorder treatment, in order to be effective, should be adapted to fit each person’s needs and preferences.
When services are personalized, they’re able to play off each person’s strengths, address individual patterns and triggers and heal from a holistic lens. People are not cogs in a machine, so treatment shouldn’t treat them like it.
While treatment is most helpful when it is modified for each person, there are some tried and true staples that will be common to each person’s eating disorder treatment experience. In this article we’ll walk you through several universal aspects of treatment, from the diagnosis to a general timeline for the eating disorder recovery process.
Eating disorder treatment doesn’t always start with a clinical diagnosis, but it’s one of the first steps in every healing journey. While some people attempt to self-diagnose, a qualified professional can help you identify signs and symptoms of a specific disorder so you can get the most appropriate treatment.
Typically, individuals come to treatment with a diagnosis or receive one during an intake assessment. Eating disorder diagnoses are based on the American Psychological Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and include anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, avoidant restrictive food intake disorder and more.
The treatment program options
Once you have an understanding of the diagnosis you’re facing and the severity of the disorder, you’ll have a much better idea of what kind of treatment you need. While all eating disorders are dangerous, those that are life-threatening tend to require hospitalization or inpatient care with medical supervision.
According to a meta-analysis in the journal World Psychiatry, anorexia has the second highest mortality rate of any mental disorder, only after opioid use disorder. When anorexia or any other eating disorder has spiraled out of control, you’ll want to ensure the highest caliber of treatment.
The structure of treatment will depend on the level of need and so will the frequency of therapy, but the framework for therapy has several common threads for all eating disorders. According to Mayo Clinic, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), family therapy and group CBT are the recommended psychological treatments for all types of eating disorders.
A mental health professional will guide you in talk therapy sessions to help you understand your disorder, heal related emotional wounds, identify triggers and dismantle a harmful self-image and poor eating patterns.
Treatment that has no end goal in mind is aimless and ineffective. In whatever level of service you find yourself, you should always have clear, identified goals that you and a mental health professional collaborate on.
Goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely, often referred to with the acronym SMART. Your treatment plan is made up of these goals, and the objectives (or smaller steps) you need to take to achieve them. Each goal helps you alleviate symptoms or heal the root of an eating disorder.
The psychosocial learning
In the context of one-on-one or group therapy, you’ll also engage in plenty of learning that will boost your recovery. This aspect of treatment may blend seamlessly with therapy. In psychosocial learning, you’ll be building skills that support a positive relationship with food and create a lifestyle compatible with recovery.
Some of the skills you’ll learn include meal planning, mindful eating, decreasing stress, coping mechanisms for triggers, healthy communication, self-care, understanding the signs and symptoms of eating disorders and fostering practical skills that support treatment and spill over into other areas of life.
When people are looking to start treatment for an eating disorder, they’re often looking for a timeline with a clear number of days before they’ll find full healing. Sadly, no one can give you a definite answer before or even early on in treatment, and it’s subject to change.
The truth is that treatment has no hard and fast end date, and continuing services could extend for years. While most residential treatment lasts anywhere from a week to a couple months, outpatient services and therapy can and should extend for a year or more.
The eating disorder treatment experience is guaranteed to be an emotional experience. The good news is that there’s more hope than negative feelings in the long run. At first, you’re sure to face trepidation, but overcoming the obstacle of fear is well worth the relief of healing.
The emotional ups and downs of treatment can occur in one big arch over the course of the journey, but they also occur on a daily basis. Some days treatment leaves you feeling elated, other days you’ll want to give up.
Remember that continuing with treatment, just like eating, should not be dictated by emotions, but by your resolve to treat yourself well and live a full life.
Seeds of Hope can walk with you as you pursue the life you’ve always wanted. Don’t let the fear of food or weight changes control you any longer— call Seeds of Hope today and schedule an appointment.