Assessing the Situation
If you suspect that you may have an eating disorder, the first course of action should be to analyze your family’s past, your current mental state, and attitude towards food. It’s extremely rare for an eating disorder to develop without some kind of risk factor. Eating disorders often run in families, so it’s important to remember that if a family member has an eating disorder, you may be at risk of one. In that same vein, you may have some kind of mental illness that the eating disorder has sprouted from. Mental disorders also often run in families. If you’ve already been diagnosed with some kind of anxiety disorder, depression, or mood disorder and you feel as though you’re developing an unhealthy relationship with food and eating, it may be time to visit your doctor.
In our weight-biased culture, when a fat person loses weight, it is almost always seen as a good thing. Even when that weight loss is caused by an eating disorder. — Alexis Conason Psy.D.
If your doctor has diagnosed you with an eating disorder, it’s time to discuss some kind of treatment plan. There are different types of treatment plans that depend on the severity, type, and circumstances of the particular disorder. In severe cases, your doctor may recommend that you to be admitted to a hospital if your health is being threatened. Moreover, treatment centers and psychological specialists are usually the most common treatments that are recommended.
Both treatment centers and psychologists often use a lot of similar treatments. The most common treatments include a type of therapy called cognitive-behavioral therapy (also known as CBT), nutritional counseling, and exposure/response prevention therapy.
Eating disorders are not a choice. No one chooses to lose all of their friends, because they cannot go anywhere that there will be food. — Jennifer Rollin MSW, LCSW-C
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive-behavioral therapy focuses on identifying and recognizing certain harmful behaviors that could be causing the unhealthy eating habits and using therapy to change thinking patterns. CBT is used for a variety of disorders. For eating disorders, in particular, it emphasizes on altering the patient’s views and attitudes towards food and eating. By changing how one thinks about food, CBT can help drastically change the patient’s relationship with food, improving their eating habits and creating a much healthier relationship. Cognitive-behavioral therapy takes about three to four months for the benefits to be apparent. But, studies show that the progress made is upheld for a much longer time than some other types of therapy.
Nutritional therapy aids a patient’s relationship with food by helping the individual understand that eating habits need to be altered in order for them to be healthy. Nutritional counselors focus on the body’s needs. They emphasize on the idea that the patient’s body needs nutrients and vitamins from food to survive. They also focus on the patient’s self-image, attempting to diminish any type of distorted view that the individual may have about their body. Finally, counselors stress the idea that the patient needs to listen to their body’s cues. Quite a lot of patients with eating disorders often ignore when their body tells them that they are hungry or full. Nutritional counselors emphasize that being in tune with one’s body is crucial to recovering from unhealthy eating habits.
Feelings of shame and guilt about one’s self image can cause individuals to continue on a cycle of stress if they do not have a productive outlet. — Greta Gleissner LCSW
Exposure/Response Prevention Therapy
ERP focuses on exposing individuals that the use of unhealthy eating habits as coping mechanisms to certain situations can typically trigger their behaviors. Quite a lot of patients with eating disorders use it as some kind of coping mechanism, whether it be for obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, PTSD, social anxiety, or other situations. For example, if a patient uses their eating disorder as a way to deal with their PTSD, a therapist may expose them to a type of situation that triggers their PTSD. This leads them to participate in unhealthy eating practices. However, the purpose of this is to desensitize the patient to these particular situations. Therefore, making them unfazed by their past triggers and helping them to overcome their eating disorder.