What We Treat
Eating Disorders Are Complex, Chronic Conditions and Can Be Life Threatening
Most people think of an eating disorder as a lifestyle decision or a diet “gone too far.” In fact, eating disorders are serious mental health conditions with life-threatening implications if left untreated. The mortality rate for people with eating disorders is the highest of all psychiatric illnesses, and more than 12 times higher than that for people without eating disorders. Successful treatment that can lead to full recovery goes beyond symptom control. It requires a continuum of care and a collaboration of specialists experienced in treating medical, nutritional, and mental health aspects of an eating disorder.
Is an Eating Disorder an Addiction?
Eating disorders and addictions often occur together – and there are many similarities in both risk factors and characteristics. Both disorders can be triggered by stress or are often related to histories of abuse and neglect. And both are chronic diseases with high relapse rates.
Recovery, however, can be very different with each disorder. The substance abuser must abstain from the substance; the individual with an eating disorder cannot abstain from the food since it is needed to sustain life. Abstinence for those with eating disorders involves abstinence from its symptoms – starvation, rigid dieting, binge eating, purging, and body loathing. Rather than ending the relationship with the substance, the individual with an eating disorder must work to form a healthy relationship with food, while the substance abuser traditionally severs the relationship with the substance(s) of abuse completely.
Eating disorders like Anorexia and Bulimia should not be treated as merely an addiction, even if there is a co-occurring substance use disorder or chemical addiction. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends evidence-based treatment from a coordinated treatment team that specializes in eating disorders treatment and incudes these interventions:
- Medical stabilization
- Nutritional rehabilitation
- Psychosocial treatment
The medical complexities of an eating disorder and the unique treatment demands require treatment from facilities that specialize in eating disorders treatment. When you are seeking treatment for your eating disorder, you should look for the following criteria:
- Accredited to treat eating disorders at Residential, Partial Hospitalization, and Intensive Outpatient by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF), the Joint Commission or similar accrediting organization
- Therapists and dietitians certified by the International Association of Eating Disorders Professionals (IAEDP)
- Continuity of care options to provide comprehensive levels of care with cohesive treatment team
- Specialized processes to manage meals and behaviors associated with eating disorder symptoms
- Medical oversight and routine lab work for residential and partial hospitalization
The most common eating disorders are Anorexia Nervosa (extreme restriction of food intake), Bulimia Nervosa (obsessive purging or intentional vomiting of food), and Binge Eating Disorder (uncontrollable eating of large amounts of food in a short time period).
Eating Disorder Treatment Services
What Kind of Care is Right for Me?
If you think you may be suffering from an eating disorder, you can use these assessments for more information