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  • Writer's pictureKatie Porter

Course of Treatment for Eating Disorders

Updated: Jul 9, 2021

Hello Readers!

Today’s blog is about some courses of treatment and treatment options for those with eating disorders.

As you might know by now, one of the two specialties in my therapy practice is eating disorders – everything ranging from Anorexia and Bulimia, to overeating, and Bingeing Disorders. These disorders cannot be treated in a generalized manner, as each of them have various components to them that need specific interventions.

Heads up: While this might not be the most “uplifting” article of all time, it bears importance to the severity and complexity of eating disorders – not only for the sufferer, but for those who love and care about this individual too.

You might be parent or family member of someone who suffers from an eating disorder. For you, it is likely that you feel very concerned about this person and do not know how to approach him or her without feeling nervous or apprehensive.

It is one of the most difficult things you can go through, to watch someone you care about

experiencing the onslaught of depression, suicidal ideation, obsessive and ritualistic behaviors and thoughts, and anxiety that commonly ride along with eating disorders. Not to mention the potential medical consequences of disordered eating. It leaves you feeling absolutely helpless…

You might be a sufferer of an eating disorder and find yourself feeling very alone. I am here to tell you that you are not alone. Many girls, women, and even boys and men have distorted thoughts about body image and unhealthy relationships with food.

Fact: Treating eating disorders in therapy typically takes at least one full year before significant and healthy changes become habitual.

Research has shown that eating disorders are one of the most dangerous psychiatric disorders in terms of survival rates because they carry so many physical consequences and comorbidities like depression. In severe cases, worsening physical condition and impaired mental status can even lead to death.

Potential Physical Dangers: Potential Physical Changes To Observe:

  • Heart attack or stroke                                 Hair loss

  • Electrolyte imbalances                               Unhealthy or brittle nails

  • Fainting                                                      Loss of enamel on teeth (purging activity)

  • Fatigue                                                       Sores in mouth (purging activity)

  • Muscle Loss/Weakness                               Lanugo (increase in fine body hair)

  • Easy Bruising (not an effect of

  • a medical condition alone)

  • Changes in weight

Potential Emotional States:

  • Depression                 

  • Anxiety

  • Lethargy (feeling overly tired)

  • Loss of interest in social activities

  • Perfectionistic or Obsessive tendencies

  • Low Self-Worth

  • Low Self-Esteem

  • Poor Body Image

  • Self-Harm (cutting, burning, bruising, skin-picking, hair pulling, etc.)

  • Suicidal Ideation

  • Isolation

  • Dropping grades in school

  • Poor Memory recall

  • Inability to focus

Fact:  Eating disorders are about much more than weight stabilization. The emotional effects, i.e. – the driving forces- behind the eating disorder can take an average of 7 years to restore.

Fact: Once you have recovered from an eating disorder, you are now “in recovery”. Even though you are in a much more stable place both mentally and physically, there might always be temptations to relapse. But in recovery, you have a much more solid foundation and skill-set to prevent relapse from happening.

Courses of Treatment For Eating Disorders

The sooner the intervention, the better the prognosis. It is very common for individuals to go years without any help, either by “flying under the radar” or by absolute refusal. Though it is not impossible by any means to recover, it can take a lot more time to correct the distorted thoughts and behaviors.

Option #1: Individual Counseling

Great starting place to get evaluated for the severity of the eating disorder and all the components that coincide. Individual counseling in my opinion is a must, a baseline for getting help. Here, the individual can learn tools for coping, impulse control, and especially insight into the origins and maintenance of the eating disorder.

Option #2: Family Counseling

Often very helpful, especially if some of issues for the individual pertain to the family system. Also a great source for parents and family members who struggle with knowing how to manage or talk to the person with the eating disorder.

Option #3: Intensive Outpatient Programming (IOP)

If symptoms are worsening over time after enough therapy, motivation to get better is low, and insight is barely there, this is a good option. IOP is more intensive than regular therapy. What to expect- depending on the agency, about 12 hours weekly of intensive therapy including individual, family, and weight restoration. Most agencies and insurances need to see that the individual has attempted therapy prior to being admitted into their program.

Option #4: Partial Hospitalization (PHP)

Another option and more intense than IOP. PHP usually offers intensive therapy that requires attending 5 days a week, 6-8 hours a day. It is often referred to as “Day Hospitalization”. Most agencies and insurances need to see that the individual has attempted therapy prior to being admitted into their program.

Option #5: Residential Treatment Center

Residential treatment centers are a good option for those who believe they cannot, or refuse, to improve, and/or need more consistent monitoring to maintain safety. Residential treatment centers require that you stay in their facility for anywhere from 3 months to a year. Programming includes weight stabilization, individual/family/group therapy, and education on food management.

Option #6: Medical Evaluations

With eating disorders, it is necessary for routine medical checkups with a doctor who can determine medical stability- checking for pulse, heart rate, blood pressure, blood-work abnormalities, and other health conditions that could be harmful or deadly to the individual.

Option #7: Chemical Dependency Programs (if drugs or alcohol are abused)

If the individual is also using or abusing drugs or alcohol, it may benefit him or her to attend a program that can detox and educate the individual to prevent relapse and future use.

If you can take away one thing from this article, please know that no one, not one person has to journey through an eating disorder alone. Whether you have an eating disorder or you are a family member of someone with an eating disorder, there are various treatment options for health and well-being. You just have to reach out for it.

The sooner you reach out, the sooner you can reclaim your life and all that you deserve. Call me if you are ready to begin the rest of your life.

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