This is continued from Myths & Meanings: Spotting The Signals And Getting Help…
The treatment of an eating disorder can be lengthy, hard to access, costly and not offer guarantees of a full recovery. Even with an incredible increase in research, outreach, advocacy and specialized treatment options over the last few decades, the statistics are still pretty bleak as the prevalence of eating disorders and disordered eating do not seem to be decreasing. And treatment providers at all levels of care add to this concern as they report seeing patients starting at younger and older ages.
That being said—do not give up hope nor stop fighting to decrease the prevalence of eating disorders. Your voice, your awareness, and your heart can help save lives. The following are some of my favorite organizations on the front lines helping improve education, advocacy, access to specialized treatment and awareness on local, state and federal levels…
- National Eating Disorder Association, www.nationaleatingdisorders.org
- Academy for Eating Disorders, www.aedweb.org
- International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals, www.iaedp.com
- Eating Disorder Coalition, www.eatingdisorderscoalition.org
- Gürze Books, www.gurze.com
- Eating Disorder Referral and Information Center, www.edreferral.com
- Eating Disorders Hope, www.eatingdisorderhope.com
I have been touched over the years by the men and women I have met, trained under and partnered with who are passionate about providing the best care to those suffering with food and body issues. There are so many brilliant and compassionate heroes devoting their careers to help people heal from the most deadly of all mental illnesses while battling the many myths around recovery and the treatment of eating disorders.
MYTH: Recovery from an eating disorder is not possible and I will always struggle with food and body issues.
MEANING: There are different views on this issue. I come from the view that recovery is possible—though it may look different for each person. Everyone has a different story, a unique genetic temperament and vulnerabilities. It is important a definition of recovery is full of hope, perseverance and has room for tough days.
Addressing issues beyond food and body image will be a continual part of someone’s life journey. Self worth issues, anxiety, depression, along with distressing life events and trauma are so important in decreasing the prevalence of lapse and relapses over the life span. We also need to continue to take a collective stand against the dieting industry and the unhealthy obsession with eating healthy as these are gateway drugs to developing eating disorders.
MYTH: I am either “Eating Disordered” or “Recovered.”
MEANING: The recovery process is not all or nothing but instead is a series of victories and lapses. Everyone has good and bad days, regardless of whether eating disorders are a part of our story. And recovery is not a destination or a competition but a daily choice. We need to caution against having worth and identity fused with the status of recovery. This unhealthy kind of competition and comparison puts recovery in jeopardy. I believe the recovery journey is a part of someone’s story, but never the sum total of their identity. And for those who are personally on this journey, keep your eyes and heart focused on your truth and path. This practice helps you build up emotional muscle when you are in the arena of life, living to the fullest.
MYTH: My eating disorder is not that serious. I do not need treatment.
MEANING: Over the years, so many people have reported to me this chilling statement as they fear being an emotional and financial burden to their loved ones. Minimizing and denying disordered eating thoughts and behaviors can be dangerous. Delaying treatment can lead to losing your choices, sometimes permanently. The human body is amazingly resilient but eating disorders can cause serious, and sometimes irreversible harm to your brain and related neurological systems, gastrointestinal and digestive systems, esophagus, teeth, skin, hair, eyes, bones.
There are several levels of care in the treatment of eating disorders.
- Outpatient weekly or bi-weekly care (lowest level of care)
- Intensive outpatient programs offering 3 partial days of care
- Partial hospitalization programs/day treatment programs
- Residential programs
- Inpatient treatment programs (highest level of care)
Regardless of the level of care, the standards of care in the treatment of eating disorders involve a team trained in the treatment of eating disorders including a psychotherapist, primary care physician, registered dietitian and psychiatrist. Additional integrated therapies such as group, psychodrama, yoga, massage and acupuncture have also shown to be beneficial.
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