Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses that affect people of all ages, genders, and backgrounds. They are complex and require professional help, such as therapy and medication, to overcome. They can lead to severe physical and mental health complications, including malnutrition, dehydration, heart failure, depression, and anxiety. Fortunately, with early diagnosis and effective treatment, people with eating disorders can recover and regain their health and quality of life. However, many people do not seek treatment due to the stigma or embarrassment associated with disordered eating. Learning about the evidence-based treatments available is an essential first step in getting the help you need for lasting recovery.
This blog post will discuss the different types of eating disorders, the signs and symptoms, and the most effective treatment options, including outpatient programs and advanced, evidence-based therapies.
Types of Disordered Eating
There are several types of eating disorders, each with unique symptoms and challenges. The most common types of eating disorders are:
Anorexia nervosa: Anorexia nervosa is a disorder characterized by severe food restriction, weight loss, and an intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat. People with anorexia often have a distorted body image. They may engage in excessive exercise, purging, or other weight-loss behaviours.
Bulimia nervosa: Bulimia nervosa is a disorder characterized by binge eating followed by purgings or other compensatory behaviours, such as fasting or excessive exercise. People with bulimia may have average body weight but experience intense guilt, shame, and anxiety about their eating habits.
Binge-eating disorder: Binge-eating disorder is characterized by recurrent episodes of binge eating without compensatory behaviours. People with binge-eating disorder may consume large amounts of food in a short period, even when they are not hungry, and feel a loss of control during these episodes.
Other specified feeding or eating disorder (OSFED): OSFED is a catch-all category that includes eating disorders that do not meet the criteria for anorexia, bulimia, or binge-eating disorder. Examples of OSFED include atypical anorexia, purging disorder, and night-eating syndrome.
Signs and Symptoms of An Eating Disorder.
The signs and symptoms of eating disorders can vary depending on the type and severity of the illness. However, some common signs and symptoms include:
· Extreme weight loss or weight gain
· Preoccupation with food, calories, or weight
· Distorted body image or self-esteem
· Refusal to eat certain foods or food groups
· Skipping meals or avoiding social situations involving food
· Excessive exercise or physical activity
· Purging or other compensatory behaviours after eating
· Withdrawal from friends, family, or activities
· Mood swings, anxiety, or depression
If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, it is essential to seek professional help as soon as possible.
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Treatment Options for Eating Disorders
Eating disorder treatment typically involves a multidisciplinary approach that addresses the illness's physical and psychological aspects. The treatment goals are to restore a healthy weight, improve nutrition and eating habits, and address underlying emotional and mental health issues.
Psychoeducation is an essential component of eating disorder treatment. It involves educating clients and their families about the nature of the eating disorder, including its causes, symptoms, and treatment options. Psychoeducation can help clients better understand their condition, reduce stigma, and improve their mental health and well-being.
Psychoeducation can help people with eating disorders in several ways:
· Understanding the nature of the illness.
· Identifying triggers and warning signs
· Learning coping skills
· Building a support network
· Help reduce stigma and promote understanding and acceptance
Psychotherapy is a vital component of eating disorder treatment. It involves working with a licensed mental health professional to explore and address the underlying emotional and psychological factors contributing to the eating disorder.
· Psychotherapy can help people with eating disorders in several ways:
· Addressing underlying emotional and psychological issues
· Changing negative thought patterns and behaviours
· Improving relationships
· Promoting self-awareness and self-acceptance
· Developing skills for managing difficult emotions
Outpatient Programs (IOP)
Programs like Nōmina Integrated Health’s Intensive Outpatient Program offer a comprehensive choice that provides individualized, evidence-based treatment for people with eating disorders. After a detailed assessment, the program combines lifestyle and nutritional counselling, psychotherapy, support groups and family support courses to support recovery and prevent relapse.
Best Advanced Evidence-Based Psychotherapies
Several types of psychotherapy are commonly used in eating disorder treatment. These therapies are evidence-based and have been shown to be effective in treating eating disorders. They focus on changing negative thought patterns and behaviours, improving emotional regulation, and promoting self-awareness and acceptance.
Intensive Short-Term Dynamic Psychotherapy (ISTDP):
ISTDP can be a helpful therapy for eating disorder treatment, particularly for clients with underlying emotional conflicts contributing to their illness. ISTDP aims to help clients increase their emotional awareness, reduce negative emotions, and develop healthier coping mechanisms.
Direct Neurofeedback (DNF):
Direct Neurofeedback uses real-time EEG (electroencephalography) feedback to train the brain to regulate its activity more effectively. It is a non-invasive, painless, and drug-free treatment that can help improve brain function and alleviate symptoms of various mental health conditions, including eating disorders.
Cognitive and Dialectical Behavior Therapy:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) are evidence-based therapies that have been shown to be effective in treating eating disorders. CBT and DBT help clients identify and challenge the negative thought patterns and behaviours contributing to their illness. They also teach skills for managing difficult emotions, reducing stress, and improving interpersonal relationships, which can help prevent relapse and improve the overall quality of life.
See our blog post on CBT and DBT
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT):
ACT is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on developing psychological flexibility, which involves staying present in the moment, observing thoughts and emotions without judgment, and taking effective action based on personal values. ACT is a helpful therapy for eating disorder treatment and can help manage difficult thoughts and emotions, clarify personal values, increase mindfulness, and promote committed action toward recovery.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR):
EMDR can be a helpful therapy for eating disorder treatment, particularly when the eating disorder is related to past trauma or negative experiences. EMDR uses guided eye movements to help clients process traumatic memories and reduce the associated emotional distress. During EMDR sessions, clients are asked to recall traumatic memories while engaging in guided eye movements, which may involve following a light or hand movement. The goal of EMDR is to help clients process the traumatic memory in a less distressing way, reducing symptoms and improving overall mental health.
Overall, eating disorder treatment is a complex and challenging process that requires a multidisciplinary approach. Nomina Integrated Health's outpatient program and advanced, evidence-based therapies offer a comprehensive and personalized approach to support recovery and improve overall health and well-being. If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, do not hesitate to seek professional help. Recovery is possible with the proper treatment and support.
Are you interested in speaking with a registered psychotherapist for more information? Call your local Nōmina Integrated Health clinic and see how we can help.
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