Eating disorders have garnered extensive discussion in the context of mental health in recent years. For a while, the public viewed eating disorders as a lifestyle choice, unaware they’re serious illnesses associated with complications in people’s thoughts, behaviors, and emotions. Since various behavioral health concerns often fuel these illnesses, finding reliable eating disorder treatment can be challenging for many. Fortunately, many interventions exist to address these concerns, ultimately providing the means for a reliable and sustainable recovery.
Many of our mental and behavioral services at Integrative Healthcare Center can help those seeking eating disorder treatment. Our patient-centered approach will highlight areas of concern and offer interventions geared toward each person’s unique situation. Let’s explore some ways to recover from eating disorders and discuss the various mental health concerns that can trigger these illnesses.
Types of Eating Disorders
Before discussing the risk factors and causes, it’s essential to list the most common eating disorders and their implications.
1. Anorexia nervosa – Individuals with this eating disorder either avoid food, severely restrict food intake, or eat tiny quantities of only certain foods. Due to a distorted body image and perceived need to be skinny, people with anorexia often weigh themselves and believe they’re overweight even when dangerously thin. As a result, anorexia nervosa can be fatal and has an extremely high death rate compared to other mental disorders. There are two main subtypes of anorexia nervosa:
- In restrictive anorexia nervosa, people severely limit their food intake and the types of food they consume.
- Binge-purge anorexia, as the name suggests, involves greatly restricting food intake paired with binge-eating or purging episodes; these involve eating large quantities of food in short periods followed by vomiting or using laxatives to rid the body of the consumed food.
2. Bulimia nervosa – Individuals with bulimia experience recurrent episodes of aggressive food intake while lacking control over these occurrences. Following these episodes, individuals will force themselves into behavior that compensates for the overeating, including vomiting, excessive use of laxatives or diuretics, fasting, or any combination of these behaviors. In contrast with anorexia, those with bulimia may be slightly underweight, average-weight, or overweight.
3. Binge-eating disorder – This disorder is the most common type in the United States and is characterized by individuals frequently losing control over their food intake. They tend to experience recurring episodes of eating excessive food in a specific amount of time, for example, a 1-hour window. Unlike bulimia, those with binge-eating disorder fail to purge or fast; this causes them to become overweight or obese.
4. Avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID) – Previously referred to as selective eating disorder, ARFID is a condition where people limit their food intake or food types. Unlike anorexia, these individuals don’t have a distorted body image or a fear of gaining weight. ARFID usually has an earlier onset than other eating disorders and most commonly affects teens and adolescents.
Children often go through phases of picky eating, but ARFID becomes prevalent when they don’t consume enough calories to develop and grow as they should. In adults, those with ARFID don’t eat enough calories to maintain their essential body functions.
Causes and Risk Factors of Eating Disorders
Most research indicates that the cause of eating disorders is a complex mix of genetic, behavioral, psychological, biological, and social factors. These illnesses can affect someone of any age, race, body type, or gender, though they most frequently appear in teenage years or young adulthood.
Today, researchers utilize various emerging technologies to pinpoint the direct factors that influence eating disorders. One area of focus is identifying DNA variations in human genes that link to an increased risk of developing an eating disorder. This research is particularly crucial since eating disorders often run in families.
Brain imaging is another potential tool to uncover the root causes of eating disorders. Some research has indicated differences in brain activity patterns in women with eating disorders compared to healthy women. This insight will give researchers new ways to diagnose and treat these illnesses.
4 Eating Disorder Treatment Methods
Below are four eating disorder treatment options that prove effective in treating the root causes of these illnesses:
1. Nutrition Education – One treatment route is to speak with a nutritionist or registered dietitian who can help you better understand your eating disorder and provide intervention strategies to achieve and maintain healthy eating habits. Some primary goals of nutrition education include:
- Understanding how nutrition affects the body and indicating ways in which the disorder has impacted these areas
- Establishing regular eating patterns
- Avoiding dieting or bingeing
- Setting a healthy weight goal and reaching that marker
- Correcting health problems resulting from malnutrition
- Practicing meal planning
2. Hospitalization – When eating disorders present a severe physical or mental health risk to the individual, hospitalization may be necessary. In these instances, the primary goal is to stabilize the individual’s acute medical symptoms when they appear life-threatening. Following these procedures, most of the weight and eating restoration efforts come in the outpatient setting.
Depending on the severity of hospitalization, individuals may need to enroll in various programs to assist in their recovery. These can include day treatment programs, structured as individual, group, and family therapy settings, and often entail structured eating sessions or nutrition education. In a residential treatment setting, individuals live at an eating disorder facility if they require long-term care or have been in the hospital for their physical health on multiple occasions, but their situation hasn’t improved.
3. Medications – While medications can’t cure an eating disorder, they can address some underlying causes. For example, antidepressants commonly treat eating disorders such as bulimia or binge eating as they reduce symptoms of anxiety or depression. Since many people have a comorbidity with eating disorders and other mental health complications, medications work best when combined with therapy.
4. Psychological Therapies – Individuals with eating disorders can significantly benefit from speaking with a psychologist or mental health professional. Any therapy is beneficial for eating disorders, primarily when attended regularly. These sessions can help individuals learn to normalize their eating patterns, monitor their eating, improve their mood and relationships, and explore healthy ways to cope with mental health complications.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is among the most common types of eating disorder treatment. This psychotherapy focuses on behaviors and feelings related to the eating disorder and finds ways to improve these thought patterns. Family-based therapy can also help when individuals attribute familial issues to the cause of their illness or when parents seek to learn how to help their child or teen.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is another emerging therapy and intervention for eating disorder treatment. This non-invasive procedure uses magnetic fields to stimulate target areas in the brain responsible for mental health complications such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
Biofeedback also presents desirable outcomes for eating disorder treatment. This therapy involves monitoring various bodily functions and learning to control them. In the context of eating disorders, biofeedback therapy teaches individuals valuable self-regulation skills to reduce mental conditions such as depression and anxiety.
Start Your Recovery at Integrative Healthcare Center
Integrative Healthcare Center provides comprehensive psychiatry and wellness therapies such as biofeedback, TMS, and cognitive behavioral therapy to bring care to those in need. We utilize evidence-proven and clinically-based treatment methods with a patient-centered approach, targeting your illness’s root causes.
If you or a loved one requires convenient and accessible eating disorder treatment, help is just a call away. Call (855) 599-9987 or click here to start your recovery journey.