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Eating Disorders and the Road to Recovery

Eating Disorders and the Road to Recovery

  • Posted at Feb 15, 2021
  • Written by Jessica Jarrett

Eating disorders are serious mental and physical illnesses that affect an estimated 20 million women and 10 million men in America. As with other mental illnesses, eating disorders are not a choice. There are many contributing factors such as genetics, social pressures, negative body image, low self-esteem, and other contributing factors such as stress, anxiety, trauma, depression, sexual abuse, substance use, stressful life changes, or weight-oriented careers such as gymnastics, running, or modeling. A key to helping those in need to take the first step to recovery is to educate yourself.  

What are the types of eating disorders?

While there are many types of eating disorders, these three are the most common – anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder.  Let’s take a closer look at each one. 

  • Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness and claims the lives of an estimated 10-20% of those who suffer from it due to complications. Anorexia is characterized by significant weight loss from restricting calories, and individuals often do not realize how underweight they may be and perceive themselves as “fat,” despite a dangerously low body weight.
  • Bulimia is characterized by cycles of binge eating followed by purging the body of unwanted calories. The binge-purge cycle, often triggered by stress, anxiety, depression, and a lack of control is often repeated several times a week. Binging on large amounts of food often leads people to feel regret and shame, but those with bulimia often feel a sense of comfort and well-being after purging.
  • Binge eating disorder (BED) is the most common eating disorder in the US and affects an estimated 4-9 million people. BED is characterized by episodes of binge eating with a frequency of at least once per week for three months. As with other eating disorders, there is no exact cause of the disorder, but it has been linked to genetic disposition, depression, anxiety, and weight discrimination.
  • Non-specific eating disorders comprise half of the affected individuals but do not fully meet the DSM-V criteria.

All the individuals with eating disorders share a vulnerability within the dimensions of maintaining an integrated and coherent identity with sustained self-worth and the capacity to express and pursue one’s needs in relationships and life.

Can eating disorders be treated?

The answer is yes, eating disorders are treatable and recovery is possible with the right treatment plan. At Yellowbrick, we provide an integrated model with all levels of care from residential through PHP, IOP, Outpatient and Home health. The Eating Disorder Service is for emerging adults suffering from anorexia, bulimia, non-specific ED and some cases of binge eating disorders. While Yellowbrick is not a primary weight loss or obesity treatment center, we are skilled at managing weight loss and/or obesity as it presents with other psychiatric conditions. As the Eating Disorder Service is embedded in an intensive psychiatric treatment center, co-morbid psychiatric disorders and substance abuse in addition to the eating disorder can be addressed and treated within Yellowbrick.  

There are four levels to the Eating Disorder Treatment Service:

Level 1: The Assessment

Patients seeking eating disorder treatment are seen in consultation by a team of senior clinicians. Additionally, we conduct collateral family evaluations when needed. Evaluations include a nutritional assessment and a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation. Previous medical records and testing are also reviewed. Patients participate in on-line and written research metrics facilitating the evaluation initially and to measure outcome. Attention is paid to frequent co-occurring issues such as trauma and substance use.

Level 2: Medical and Nutritional Stabilization

An initial evaluation includes a physical exam, complete blood count and chemistries/electrolytes, thyroid profile, hormone levels, lipid profile, urine analysis, toxicology screen, and bone density scan.Patients are encouraged tojournal their nutrition, activity, and emotions, which assists in the internalization of mindful connectedness and centering. Weight restoration is defined as 95% of individually determined maintenance weight and is achieved by collaboratively creating a stable structure for eating. Patients will work with their treatment team to determine goals and minimum weight thresholds.          

Level 3: Stabilization of Behavioral Problems

Persistence of behaviors such as restricting nutrition, food avoidance, feeding others, bingeing, vomiting, compulsive exercise, use of laxatives, diuretics and stimulants, social isolation, and deception all contribute to a sustained eating disorder. We collaborate with patients to develop treatment plans which include taking supported risks behaviorally and emotionally. 

Level 4: Psychological Treatment and Support

Individual, family, and group therapies provide a safe, secure, and affirming environment for personal reflection, exploration, struggle, and growth. Identifying core struggles in therapy enables patients to live through and beyond their struggles, bringing the deepest assurance of recovery, relapse prevention, and the fulfillment of authentic personal ambitions and desires.  

We are committed to providing each patient life-enhancing outcomes as they begin their recovery journey. For more information about our Eating Disorder Treatment Service and other mental health services at Yellowbrick, contact us today.

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