What are eating disorders?

It is, contrary to what the name implies, not really about food. It’s not even about weight. Those suffering from an eating disorder have developed, for varying reasons, a belief system that demands obsessive control over their bodies. While the extreme measures those with eating disorders take might seem extremely out of control to those observing the behavior, it takes an incredible amount of discipline to control the body’s natural hunger and digestion function.

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Inpatient Care

This is the beauty of inpatient care. Many facilities throughout the United States offer eating disorder treatment for those suffering from this problem. Some offer a ranch-style setting. Others are simply a spacious homelike environment. Some resemble more of an institution, but the more the environment resembles “normal” life, the less the patient will resist rehabilitation. Some of these facilities are faith-based, so it is important to choose one that does not conflict with your religious beliefs unless that is not of concern. However, most of these places are, like all professional inpatient care facilities, concerned with getting well, not converting to a particular faith. A little research should help you find the one that is best suited to your needs and expectations.

While just about all of these facilities (very few that are free, supported by generous donors) are breathtakingly expensive, most insurance is accepted. Some even offer scholarships to those patients who qualify. Treatment is generally anywhere from 3 to 9 months, depending on the severity of the obsession.

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Individual Counseling

When an individual finally seeks professional help, it is often in the form of individual counseling. These afford some relief from, and a greater understanding of the individual and their family members of why this obsessive/compulsive behavior began and continues. However, individual counseling alone is not the answer. This disorder is extremely isolating to the individual. One-on-one therapy can seem like “ganging up” to the person seeking counsel and thus inadvertently pushing them further into eating disorder behaviors.

Family Style

Let’s talk about the kind of therapy an individual would receive once accepted into a facility. Most facilities require that the patients living at the “home” live together “family style.” They share rooms, take their meals together, have social time, and even participate in outside events. All of this is intended to begin to break through the isolation barrier that those with this disorder tend to develop and often cling to with great determination. One of the best aspects of inpatient care that leads to rehabilitation is the group meeting. Groups are formed around everything from simply talking about the issues surrounding this to processing the pain, fear, and anger that precipitates an eating disorder through art, movement, and music. It has been shown that movement, such as yoga and lyrical dance, is really beneficial in bringing the client back in touch with her/his own body in a caring, loving way. Art is used to expressing past and current events and feelings that have only found an outlet in self-harm.

Inpatient Rehabilitation Program

As part of an inpatient rehabilitation program, clients have access to on-site personnel 24 hours a day. A medical doctor meets with each client on an individual basis once a week or as needed. Sometimes this person also leads a small group. Some therapists meet both individually and with larger groups for discussion and art/music/movement therapy. There are also those wonderful people who live with the residents to love, listen, and guide the clients into healthier ways of self-care.

During the process, family members are invited to join them for several therapy sessions with permission from the client. This is a crucial part of rehabilitation. There really is no such thing as an eating disordered individual. There are eating disordered families. That is not to say that everyone in the family has eating disorders, but that the family of origin has informed the individual’s life choices to a greater degree than at first might be apparent. Sometimes there is abuse that has taken place. Sometimes some marital issues or behaviors were misinterpreted. It is difficult for both the families and the client to deal with the issues caused and cultivated by this problem. A trained therapist in the right setting can facilitate this painful process to bring healing and release.

The Best Step Toward Recovery

While time and cost are major factors that keep a person or family from seeking help at an inpatient facility, it is truly the best step towards recovery. Nobody wants anybody else digging through their family’s best-kept secrets (usually some issues go back, sometimes, generations), but recovery for the individual can often mean recovery for a family. Seeking professional help in an inpatient setting has huge dividends for all involved. All involved are willing to step out of the shadow of this severe obsession and onto the road of enlightened recovery. Many folks want to send the person they love to a facility and say, “fix them.” It took a family to create this dynamic; it will take a family to recreate a different one. Twenty or thirty years ago, the term eating disorders was barely used in everyday conversation. Now, there is hardly anyone who doesn’t know someone who struggles with this debilitating and life-sucking disease. Eating disorder facts show that this doesn’t have to be a life sentence. It’s not a “get out of jail free” card, but the right inpatient facility can certainly set those with these disorders on the road to a healthy, brighter future.