Choosing the Best Eating Disorder Treatment Centers
Eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, affect as many as 30 million people in the United States, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD).1 Despite the prevalence of these mental illnesses, many sufferers do not seek treatment at a dedicated eating disorder treatment center.
Men and women struggling with eating disorders need to seek out the best eating disorder treatment, which sometimes includes treatment in a dedicated facility for such disorders. The staff members at these facilities are highly trained in dealing specifically with disorders like anorexia and bulimia, allowing them to provide truly specialized care.
Residential treatment centers offer specialized and current treatment options for eating disorders. Although many patients with anorexia or bulimia are successfully treated on an outpatient basis, for others, residential treatment is essential. Inpatient care is particularly important for patients with long-standing disorders, those at risk of self-harm, or those with substance abuse problems in addition to their eating disorder.2
In contrast, standard outpatient therapy is effective for people who require less supervision, though any treatment should be overseen by doctors and therapists specially trained to deal with eating disorders.
Self-Harm and Substance Abuse
Two groups of patients with eating disorders are at particular risk and are therefore most strongly advised to pursue residential treatment. Self-harm and suicidal thoughts sometimes accompany eating disorders, and if you’ve experienced either, seek help immediately by calling emergency services, your therapist, or a residential treatment center. Substance abuse and addiction require specialized care, and many residential facilities offer expertise in both types of treatment.
Behavioral Therapy and Peer Support
The foundations of treatment for anorexia and bulimia consist of behavioral therapy that usually includes some form of peer support, which residential treatment facilities focus on. Peer support techniques involve meeting with a group of people struggling with the same or a similar disorder to learn coping techniques, provide encouragement, and process the treatment; these groups are often a core part of residential treatment communities. Residential facilities also incorporate individual and family behavioral therapy provided by licensed professional counselors to work through the emotional and psychological issues supporting the eating disorder.
Doctors often prescribe antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications to help patients suffering from eating disorders. For people with bulimia, these medications help reduce the urge to binge and purge cycles by addressing potential triggers. Other medications are sometimes a part of treatment regimes, and at residential facilities, these medications are prescribed and monitored by staff physicians. Additional pharmaceutical treatments are also sometimes necessary for patients struggling with other addictions or disorders related to their eating disorder. In general, medications are considered a supplement to therapy rather than a first course of treatment for eating disorders.
The Importance of Nutrition
Another crucial aspect of treatment for eating disorders is nutrition. Residential facilities carefully coordinate the nutrition they provide to help make up for deficits created by patients’ disorders. They also carefully select meal plans to help avoid exacerbating patients’ disorders or prompting relapse. Nutrition programs are among the biggest advantages of residential treatment over outpatient therapy, as residential staff members are able to manage patient nutrition much more carefully than a private therapist who only sees the patient a few times a week.
Length of Rehab
The length of treatment for eating disorders varies greatly depending on the severity of the case and other relevant factors. Residential treatment programs are generally conducted over a matter of months or even a year. Outpatient programs may last around the same time or longer since patients may still continue to attend school or go to work in these treatment settings.
Often, it takes some time for patients and caregivers to arrive at a personalized program of treatment that is most effective for them. However, some patients make faster progress if their illness responds more quickly to treatment.
Treatment centers specializing in eating disorders are not hard to find, and many general rehabilitation programs offer programs for anorexia or bulimia, in addition to other treatments. This gives anyone suffering from an eating disorder a wide variety of options when choosing a treatment center.
Many people prefer to select rehab programs far from their homes to more effectively disrupt harmful routines, although this is not crucial for successful treatment. Others, however, find it more comforting and financially reasonable to select a treatment center near home.
How to Pay for It
Eating disorder treatment is not a short process for most people, so residential treatment tends to be very costly. It is important to give any treatment pursued some time to evaluate whether it is effective or not—there are no quick rehab options. Also, since many patients go through other programs of treatment both before and after residential treatment, their financial resources are often squeezed. Anyone considering a residential course of treatment needs to carefully consider payment options, beginning by consulting their insurance providers and financial counselors.
Relapse from an Eating Disorder
- National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. (2018). Eating Disorder Statistics.
- National Institute of Mental Health. ( 2018). Eating Disorders: About More than Food.