Find the Best Anorexia Treatment Programs and Dual Diagnosis Rehabs
What Is Anorexia Nervosa?
Anorexia nervosa is classified as a mental illness. It starts most often during the patient’s teenage years or young adulthood.
Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by an irrational fear of food as well as extreme, life-threatening weight loss. Patients who suffer from anorexia nervosa have a distorted body image and an excessive, obsessive fear of obesity, even when they are morbidly underweight. Patients with anorexia nervosa do not necessarily lose their appetite but rather obsessively control and restrict their food intake.
Anorexia nervosa is classified as a mental illness. It starts most often during the patient’s teenage years or young adulthood. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, between 85 and 90 percent of those who suffer from this dangerous psychological disorder are female.
Signs and Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa
When a person suffers from anorexia nervosa, her relationship with food is dramatically altered. The anorexic person sees food as the enemy. Refusing to eat around other people, cutting food in small pieces and rearranging it on the plate in an effort to avoid ingesting it, or straightforward refusal to eat are some of the visible signs of this disorder. Patients often disappear into the bathroom after a meal. In their effort to get leaner, they may resort to excessive exercise, purging, laxatives, diuretics, diet pills and other methods that may help with weight loss.
While they refuse to acknowledge their condition, anorexia nervosa sufferers obstinately keep their weight under what is considered safe or normal (usually at 85 percent or less than normal weight), have an intense fear of being fat, an obsessive preoccupation with weight loss, and refuse to see the danger of being underweight. Physical signs, such as severe muscle loss, thinning hair, brittle nails, extreme sensitivity to cold, and yellow, dry skin, are common. Patients may also suffer from bone loss, dry mouth, low blood pressure and alopecia. Female patients also experience missing or stopped periods. All other symptoms characteristic to malnutrition may appear in a person with anorexia nervosa.
Complications of Anorexia Nervosa
Beyond the usual complications brought on by malnutrition (slowing metabolism, irregular heartbeat, dizziness, lack of physical strength, chronic fatigue, kidney, liver or thyroid problems, and a plethora of other conditions caused by nutritional deficiencies), anorexia may alter the way the brain functions, causing slow thinking, inability to concentrate and depression. Anorexia is a deadly disorder. According to James Lock, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University Medical School, 1 in every 10 anorexia nervosa sufferers dies. There is a high incidence of suicide among anorexic patients.
If left untreated, anorexia nervosa likely remains a lifelong condition. Since the sufferers are unable to recognize their own problem, let alone find solutions, the best approach is to find professional treatment at an inpatient anorexia treatment facility or, better yet, in a dual diagnosis treatment center.
Dual diagnosis occurs when a mental illness is accompanied by a substance abuse problem. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association cited by the National Alliances on Mental Illness, the incidence of co-occurring disorders is staggering: About 50 percent of those who suffer from a severe mental disorder also suffer from substance abuse. In the particular case of eating disorders, the stakes are equally high, per the National Institute of Health; approximately half of those suffering are also drug or alcohol abusers.
The high numbers are not difficult to explain. Mental illnesses put patients in vulnerable positions, making it difficult to make responsible decisions. Whether in a quest for acceptance or in an attempt to deal with their own pain, sufferers are greatly susceptible to taking the substance abuse path.
Treatment at a Dual Diagnosis Facility
People who suffer from such co-occurring disorders pose a few particular problems. First, the substance abuse is not always identified, so appropriate treatment is not devised. Second, even when the condition is recognized, few facilities are prepared to treat both. Often, the patient is treated for only one condition or forced to jump from one type of services to another in order to address both problems. Third, experience shows that treating only the eating disorder while ignoring the coinciding condition is not effective. Patients with co-occurring conditions have a great risk of relapse. Substance abuse often makes the eating disorder worse and more difficult to treat.
If an anorexia nervosa sufferer is also a victim of substance abuse, it is best to seek treatment from an inpatient dual diagnosis facility. This type of rehabilitation facility is prepared to treat both the eating disorder and the accompanying condition through a carefully devised integrated treatment. The same team of doctors addresses both the eating disorder and the substance abuse in a comprehensive and coordinated fashion, eliminating the gap caused by seeking treatment from different facilities or separate teams.
Integrated treatment recognizes the need to address the conditions gradually, which is why it is devised in stages. Since substance abuse often interacts with the patient’s motivation or ability to respond to treatment, the first stage is detoxification. After this, the issue of anorexia nervosa is addressed on several fronts. Medication may be used for depression, while talk or group therapy is included in order to work towards a healthier relationship with food and self-image and for patients to feel less isolated. Cognitive behavioral therapy changes negative behavior patterns and finds alternate ways to deal with stress. Food intake is carefully monitored to make a return to a healthy weight possible. Finally, the patient receives nutritional advice in order to gain a more healthy insight into his or her nutritional needs.
Finding the Best Anorexia and Dual Diagnosis Facility
In order to remove the patient from a potentially destructive environment and to control and change daily eating behaviors, it is best to seek treatment in a residential treatment facility. This removes external interferences and any negative influences that led to either the eating disorder or the substance abuse. It also ensures continual and permanent emotional support, either from the medical team or from fellow sufferers, and it offers the patient an opportunity to receive a medically supervised detoxification treatment. The chosen facility must offer psychiatric evaluation to address the underlying cause of both the anorexia nervosa and the coinciding condition. Choose a facility in which medical staff members work with the patient’s close family and friends, helping them to understand the situation and be part of the solution.