How Eating Disorders are Treated: What You Need to Know

Learn more about types of eating disorders, how eating disorders are treated, and where to get the help you need.

Table of Contents

How Eating Disorders are Treated: Introduction

Eating disorders are relatively common among adolescents and young adults. They often occur when a person becomes obsessed with their weight. They then hyperfocus on their food intake, leading to an unhealthy relationship with food. 

Individuals living with an eating disorder develop habits that impact the intake of appropriate nutrition into their bodies. An eating disorder is a severe condition that affects the individual’s social and physical function. It is important to know how eating disorders are treated in order to achieve recovery.

How Eating Disorders are Treated

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What Are Eating Disorders?

Eating disorders are serious illnesses that negatively affect a person’s psychological and physical health. It damages the relationship an individual has with food and their body image. With an eating disorder, someone may eat more or less than needed, adversely depleting their health. This disorder also affects the ability of the affected individuals to function in vital areas of their lives.

Understanding that eating disorders are not a lifestyle choice is vital. Eating disorders are complex and severe. They can be life-threatening due to the extreme physical toll they take on the body. It is advisable for an individual experiencing eating disorders to understand how eating disorders are treated.1

Types of Eating Disorders

Eating disorders typically develop in adolescents and young adults. However, they can manifest at any age in any gender. There are several different types of eating disorders. Understanding the specific condition a person has will determine how eating disorders are treated. Some of the most common eating disorders are detailed below.2

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is a disorder often characterized by the intense fear of weight gain. It involves a restricted calorie intake by self-starvation, which leads to an abnormally low body weight. People with this eating disorder often see themselves as severely underweight or overweight. 

The individuals living with this disorder often find it difficult to understand its impact and tend not to see that they are unwell. This eating disorder has a high mortality rate among other mental illnesses. Anorexia nervosa has two subtypes: the restricting type and the purging type.3

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa is a disorder in which individuals lack control over food intake. It is a life-threatening disorder that makes the individual have episodes of binge eating and purging. Most individuals with this disorder restrict calorie intake during the day, leading to more extreme purging and binging.

Individuals struggling with this disorder often consume a large amount of food in a short period of time. Afterward, they induce vomiting to rid the body of the extra calories because of the intense fear of weight gain. Individuals with bulimia are constantly preoccupied with their weight and often judge themselves harshly.

Binge-Eating Disorder

People with binge-eating disorder often eat quickly and consume more than they intend, even when they are not hungry. They often lack control over their food intake and regularly overeat. After binging, they often feel guilty and ashamed of the amount of food consumed.

People with binge-eating disorders do not compensate for their behavior with excessive purging, but they tend to eat alone to hide their binging. Binging often occurs at least once a week, and the individual may be overweight or normal weight.

Why Are Eating Disorders Dangerous?

As stated previously, eating disorders are dangerous. They come with both physical side effects and mental health risks. Some of each of these side effects are detailed below.

Physical Health Risks

Eating disorders pose a significant risk to a person’s physical health. It leads to brittle nails and hair, dry skin, and decreased muscle mass. It also causes severe side effects, some of which include:
  • Malnutrition
  • Heart problems
  • Reduced hormone levels

Mental Health Risks

In the United States, eating disorders affect the mental health conditions of over 10 million men and 20 million women. This disorder is a mental health issue that can lead an individual to substance use, hence the need to understand how eating disorders are treated.

Substance Abuse

According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, people experiencing eating disorders are five times more likely to experience substance use disorder than others. Some of the reasons why individuals with eating disorders experience substance use disorder include:

  • Certain drugs suppress appetite by tricking the user into a satiated feeling, thereby leading to weight loss
  • Individuals suffering from eating disorders tend to also experience anxiety and depression. These individuals turn to the use of drugs or substances to self-medicate

Treatment for Eating Disorders

Although there is no single cause of eating disorders, certain individuals may have carrier genes. These people have an increased risk of developing an eating disorder, which plays a part in how eating disorders are treated. Eating disorders are complex conditions that can affect the individual’s physical and mental health, in turn reducing their quality of life.

Due to the complexity of this disorder, it can affect the individual in a variety of ways. It is advisable to receive treatment from a trusted medical center for this disorder.

Should You Pursue Treatment from a Medical Center?

While overcoming an eating disorder on your own is possible, it is also an extremely difficult process. Pursuing treatment from a medical center or rehabilitation facility is the best course of action to ensure a successful recovery. Medical professionals can explain how eating disorders are treated and suggest the best treatment plan for you.

Types of Eating Disorder Treatment

There are a variety of different treatment options for eating disorders. Some of these treatment modalities are detailed below.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Medical centers often offer CBT to help patients experiencing an eating disorder. This form of psychotherapy helps individuals challenge their thoughts surrounding their eating disorders. It also helps the patient to change their behavioral patterns and negative thinking.4

Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)

IOP is a treatment designed for individuals needing more support than outpatient treatment can offer. This program also offers more flexibility for the individual to keep working. In this program, the individuals attend weekly meetings for two to five days.  

Outpatient Eating Disorders Treatment

Outpatient eating disorders treatment is one of the treatments used in medical centers to treat eating disorders. During this program, the individual will see a nutritionist, therapist, and other professionals twice to thrice weekly. This treatment is advisable for individuals who still need to continue work or attend school.

How Do These Treatments Work?

Treatments used for eating disorders often depend on the type of eating disorder the individual is experiencing. It also depends on the disorder’s symptoms because the treatment is tailored to the patient’s needs. Understanding how eating disorders are treated will help in choosing the right type of treatment.
how eating disorders are treated

How to Begin Recovery From an Eating Disorder

You can begin your healing process by:

  • Seeking professional help to understand how eating disorders are treated
  • Making positive life changes
  • Developing some coping skills and self-care habits
  • Focusing on nutrition and health
  • Finding a supportive community or group or joining a recovery program
  • Taking time to heal

How Eating Disorders are Treated at Alternative Options

How eating disorders are treated can vary greatly depending on the specific disorder and a person’s unique needs. Luckily, Alternative Options is here to help. Our team of compassionate and caring professionals can create the right treatment plan for you to ensure a successful recovery. 

At Alternative Options, how eating disorders are treated depends on each individual patient. We offer a variety of treatment options, including CPT, group therapy, inpatient and outpatient programs, and holistic approaches.

Contact Alternative Options Today

If you or a loved one have questions about how eating disorders are treated, reach out to Alternative Options today for more information.