Individuals with eating disorders are often unsure about whether to seek treatment. Many of them are terrified about the possibility of weight gain. Others feel confused about giving up patterns of behaviour which have for so long been a major part of how they see themselves. Some have struggled in secret for years and are uncomfortable talking about personal issues or are embarrassed about their symptoms. Getting help is one of the most important steps someone living with an eating disorder can take.

Getting help

Giving up restrictive eating, or learning to eat normally, is necessary for recovery. This is often the most difficult obstacle to face because of the fear of weight again. Many individuals with an eating disorder have no idea what “normal eating” is and it is common for them to have lost their ability to determine hunger and fullness.

Research has shown that it is important to deal with food and weight issues early in treatment and for the individual to work toward normalizing eating. Otherwise, eating disorder symptoms may interfere with the individual’s ability to process underlying issues in therapy.

Treating an Eating Disorder

The most effective treatment for eating disorders is one that addresses the physical and  psychological aspects of the disorder. Each indivudal has her own specific symptoms, issues, and strengths. The severity of the disorder varies among individuals.

The goal is to treat any medical or nutritional needs, promote a healthy relationship with food, and teach constructive ways to cope with life and its challenges.

Often, a combination of therapy, nutritional counseling, and group support works best. In some cases, inpatient treatment or hospitalization may be necessary.

Psychotherapy

Individual and group therapy can help individuals explore the issues underlying the eating disorder, improve self-esteem, and learn healthy ways of responding to stress and emotional pain. Family therapy is also effective for dealing with the impact the eating disorder has on the entire family unit.

Nutritional counseling 

Dieticians are typically involved in the treatment of eating disorders. They can help individuals set dietary goals; provide education about basic nutrition and the health consequences of eating disorders.

Support groups

Attending an eating disorder support group can help your loved one feel less alone and ashamed. Run by peers rather than professionals, support groups provide a safe environment to share experiences, advice, encouragement, and coping strategies.

Residential treatment 

Residential or hospital-based care may be required when there are severe physical or behavioral problems, such as a resistance to treatment, medical issues that require a doctor’s supervision, or continuing weight loss.

Information adapted from  www.nedic.ca and www.nationaleatingdisorders.org

For more information:

Eating Disorders Action Group of Halifax

National Eating Disorders Information Centre

National Eating Disorders Associaton