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How does therapy for eating disorders work in Austin?

girl with eating disorder

Eating disorders are one of the most difficult mental health conditions to treat. There are both medical and psychological components to treatment for eating disorders, and both can be complicated to address. The good news is that effective treatment is available for those who seek help for their eating disorder. There are a number of treatment types, and for many complex cases, a team treatment dynamic is applied.

Different Therapies for Eating Disorders

Depending on the type of eating disorder as well as the history and needs of the patient, there are several established treatments available. Successful treatment often depends on addressing several factors, such as physical health, underlying mental health concerns, and education on regular eating patterns for the patient and family members.

1.) Inpatient Hospitalization

Anorexia nervosa is often initially treated through an inpatient program. Many of these patients require medical interventions and an intensive, individualized treatment plan to address the dangerous side effects of their eating disorder. Medical staff will work together to stabilize the patient's weight and address medical issues caused by the condition (such as electrolyte imbalance, cardiac problems, decreased bone density, or pneumonia).

To treat eating disorders, a primary care doctor will work with a team of experts, including a nutrition education expert to assist with eating habits, nursing to monitor vital signs, a mental health professional to address mental health issues, and possibly physical and occupational therapists. Treating eating disorders often takes team effort. Family members are also included in family therapy to learn how to recognize eating disorders and understand how to address behaviors.

2.) Hospital Day Treatment Programs

For patients who may not need constant monitoring but could still benefit from intensive outpatient treatment, day treatment programs are available. This is again typically for those with anorexia nervosa; however, other eating disorders may require this treatment. Partial hospitalization programs are also available.

Eating disorder treatment in a day program may involve intensive therapy for eating disorders, including nutrition education with a dietician to reach a healthy weight, mental health treatment with a psychotherapist, and family therapy for eating disorders to educate family on what to look for and how to help support their loved one get to a healthy weight.

3.) Residential Treatment for Eating Disorders

A residential treatment program for eating disorders offers monitoring and therapy for eating disorders and may be used for those who may require close monitoring but prefer a less hospital-style environment (and can afford private care).

4.) Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Enhanced Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT-E)

Psychotherapy is an important factor used to treat eating disorders. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and enhanced cognitive-behavioral therapy for eating disorders have been shown to be extremely effective. CBT therapy for eating disorders is the number-one framework recommended for bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorders. It is also one of three types of therapy recommended in the treatment of anorexia nervosa.

When compared to interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT), another commonly prescribed eating disorder treatment, it was found that CBT-E showed significantly higher remission rates.

5.) Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

Another common framework used for eating disorders is called acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). This form of behavioral therapy prioritizes acceptance of your feelings (rather than repression) and learning to make necessary changes to your life.

6.) Dialectical Behavioral Therapy for Eating Disorders

DBT is another of the evidence based psychological treatments recommended for treating anorexia nervosa and other eating disorders. It is also a form of behavioral therapy, and it is most often used for those who experience extremely intense emotions.

7.) Ongoing Treatment for Health Problems

In addition to working with a mental health professional, those with eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder may often work with other healthcare professionals to manage their physical health over time. This includes achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, fixing dental problems or ulcers (caused by frequent vomiting), and learning meal planning.

8.) Medications for Eating Disorders

Certain medications are also part of many treatment programs for eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. Antidepressants may be especially helpful for use in the treatment of bulimia or binge eating disorder; however, other medications may be prescribed depending on the needs of the patient. Eating disorders are commonly comorbid with other mental health conditions, and so medications will be decided on the basis of contributing symptoms.

9.) Nutrition Education

Nutrition education is another important piece of the puzzle in eating disorder treatment. A registered dietician will often work with the eating disorder patient and their family members and teach them how to prepare and plan balanced menus that will promote a healthy weight.

10.) What about other types of therapies?

Group therapy for eating disorders is also common. Eating disorder recovery is often a process, and working with eating disorder professionals that run group therapy that focuses on eating disorder behaviors like binge eating, disordered eating patterns, and other mental health problems can be key to establishing healthy eating patterns and true healing.

How does eating disorder therapy help?

People who experience eating disorders like anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or binge eating disorder often have underlying mental health conditions that contribute to their eating disorder symptoms. Working with a mental health professional can help them identify triggers, understand the cause of their eating pathology, work through big emotions, and offer eating behavioral strategies to support their physical health long-term.

At Williamsburg Therapy Group, our team of doctoral-level therapists specializes in anything from anxiety to depression to, yes, eating disorders.

Give us a call, and our patient coordinator will help you find the right therapist for you.

Book a Therapy Session in Austin Today

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