Many doctors and researchers do not fully understand eating disorders and there are no set methods of eating disorders treatment. However, eating disorders are treatable and a healthy weight and mindset can be restored. The quicker the problem is diagnosed and treatment begins, the better the outcome is likely to be.
As a result of their complexity, eating disorder programs require a comprehensive treatment plan that usually involves medical care, close monitoring, nutritional counseling, psychological treatment, interventions and if appropriate, medication. The first step in treatment begins as soon as the patient arrives at the hospital or doctor’s office. Once a person seeks help, the doctor who is diagnosing the disorder must determine whether the patient is in immediate danger and requires hospitalization.
Early diagnosis of anorexia dramatically increases the treatment success rate. Some eating disorder programs utilize psychotropic medication in treatment for anorexia nervosa, but it is important not to add this element of treatment until weight gain has been established.
Some antidepressants have also been shown to assist in maintaining weight and also resolving some of the secondary symptoms such as mood and anxiety. Treatment for anorexia nervosa usually calls for a very specific program involving three phases.
Phases of Anorexia Treatment
- Restoring weight loss due to severe dieting and purging
- Treating the psychological elements such as body image distortion and low self-esteem
- Working to achieve long-term remission and full recovery
Most anorexia treatment takes place at an inpatient hospital so staff can utilize strict feeding plans to address the patient’s medical and nutritional needs. Helping the patient achieve a healthy weight is paramount. Eating disorder support in the form of psychotherapy can begin once the patient is classified as stable.
Treatment usually involves either cognitive-behavioral or interpersonal psychotherapy. Psychotherapy has shown to help patients overcome low self-esteem, distorted thoughts and negative behavior patterns. Some eating disorder treatment centers incorporate family therapy into their program which has significantly beneficial results in most cases.
The primary goal of bulimia treatment is to reduce the occurrence of, and ultimately end, the binge and purging behavior. It is important to establish regular, non-binge meals, improve the patient’s attitude and encouraging healthy exercise. It is also important to treat other conditions that may occur simultaneously, such as mood and anxiety disorders.
Individual therapy and group therapy are used in bulimia treatment. If needed, psychotropic medications, such as antidepressants, have been extremely successful in the treatment of bulimia. Patients who have not responded well to psychological treatment alone sometimes benefit from the inclusion of medication. Medications have also been shown to help prevent relapse.
Eating Disorder Recovery
One of the most important elements of eating disorder recovery involves support from family members and people who have undergone treatment and are survivors of eating disorders. Eating disorder support groups have proven beneficial to the continued treatment for bulimia and anorexia nervosa.
Most people with eating disorders do not recognize or want to admit that they are sick, which results in a strong resistance to getting and staying in treatment. It is important for family members and trusted friends to help ensure the patient receives the needed care and rehabilitation. Long term treatment is not uncommon for many who suffer from an eating disorder.
The underlying causes of eating disorders are still unclear to researchers. They are not considered to be a complete neurological disorder, which is usually characterized by a lesion on the brain. An eating disorder is classified as an irregular activity across the brain’s systems. Because of these differences, researchers must use tools from neuroscience and psychology to develop new methodologies for eating disorder treatment.