Why Eating Disorders Remain Socially Unaccepted as a Mental Illness

The Academy for Eating Disorders (AED) classifies anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and other eating disorders as serious and viable mental illnesses requiring the same rigorous, evidence-based therapies used to treat major depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder and even schizophrenia. Unfortunately, eating disorders are not always considered a mental illness based on stereotypes characterizing individuals (especially women) who appear to be narcissistically fixated on their weight and appearance. Consequently, eating disorder treatment centers are now actively providing in-depth mental health education to patients, family members of eating disorder patients and residents of communities involved in eating disorder support.

Clinical Definitions of a Mental Illness and an Eating Disorder

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders V (DSM-V) defines a mental disorder as “syndromes characterized by clinically significant disturbances in a person’s behavior, emotion regulation or cognition that reflects dysfunction in the developmental, biological or psychological processes fundamental to mental functioning.” The DSM-V further defines mental illness as different from socially deviant behavior because this type of behavior emerges as a “rift” between society and the individual.

Instead of simply classifying eating disorders as a unique mental illness, the DSM-V provides criteria for each eating disorder that must be met in order for a psychologist to provide a diagnosis. For example, the DSM-V describes “unspecified eating or feeding disorders” such as selective eating disorder or pica as a disorder “causing significant impairment or distress in occupational, social or other areas important to normal functioning.” Unspecified eating disorders fail to meet criteria listed in the DSM-V but still warrant a diagnosis of an eating/feeding disorder.

Similarities Between Eating Disorders and Mental Illnesses

Psychologists and psychiatrists specializing in eating disorders do not differentiate between mental illness and anorexia, bulimia, binge-eating or unspecified eating disorders. Assessments detailing physical and psychological symptoms of patients admitted to eating disorder treatment centers include symptoms supporting a diagnosis of mental illness, such as:

  • Anxiety/panic/agitation
  • Depression, suicide ideation and feelings of hopelessness
  • Inability to control obsessing over food, weight and appearance
  • Inability to keep a job or stay in school because of an overwhelming preoccupation with their weight
  • Body dysmorphia (a distorted perception of how they appear to others and what they see in the mirror)

In severe eating disorder cases, an eating disorder therapist may need to prescribe antipsychotic medications to patients who present with delusional thinking, paranoia and/or hallucinations upon the patient entering an eating disorder recovery program. Before eating disorders can be addressed through intense psychotherapy, underlying mental health issues must be recognized and treated appropriately. Eating disorders are not a product of someone’s out-of-control vanity. It is a mental illness emerging from deep-seated psychological dilemmas rooted in genetic and biopsychosocial factors affecting patients during childhood.

The Importance of Psychiatric Services for Eating Disorders

Psychiatrists determine whether an eating disorder patient is suffering from a serious mental illness requiring immediate intervention. With their background in psychology, medicine and neurology, psychiatrists are highly qualified to differentiate a mental disorder from a temporary condition caused by malnutrition or other medical problem. Delusions, hallucinations, constant panic attacks and suicidal ideation can be caused by vitamin deficiencies, excessive or insufficient neurotransmitter levels, hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism and many other health problems associated with long-term anorexia, bulimia or binge-eating disorder. Receiving a mental health diagnosis by a psychiatrist specializing in eating disorders is a vital component of the development of a comprehensive, efficacious treatment program.

In some cases, eating disorder treatment centers work with patients entering their center who require emergency psychiatric attention. Psychiatrists and psychologists provide immediate counseling for patients experiencing psychotic episodes, suicidal ideation and severe panic attacks. Eating disorder psychiatrists are trained to recognize when an emergency intervention is necessary for safeguarding a patient’s well-being. Once an eating disorder patient is stabilized, they are provided additional intake assessments and rapid exposure to cognitive behavioral therapy and eating disorder support therapists who help new patients adjust to their new surroundings.

Stereotypes About People with Eating Disorders

Being height-weight proportionate or slightly thinner than standards set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is considered conducive to good health and may reduce your risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease. However, people who constantly diet, talk about dieting, refuse to eat when out with family or friends and spend hours looking at themselves in mirrors are often thought to be vain, self-centered and narcissistic.

The stigma surrounding adolescent girls seeking anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge-eating or selective eating disorder treatment involves the unsound notion that eating disorders are nothing but a “girl” issue similar to a rite of passage or period of being a “control freak” as a changeable, temperamental teenager. Concerned parents may bring their teen daughter’s dieting obsession to the attention of a family physician who says “it’s just a behavioral quirk” that adolescent girls eventually outgrow. Or perhaps the parents of a teenager exhibiting signs of an eating disorder think since their child is getting good grades in school and isn’t “acting” like she is mentally ill, there is nothing wrong with her, that she is simply experiencing normal self-esteem and peer pressure issues common to girls her age.

To help combat perpetuation of the stereotype that people with eating disorders do not need treatment for their mental illness, eating disorder treatment centers are giving patients, families of patients and their local communities comprehensive, clinical information called psychoeducation that is often integrated into a patient’s eating disorder recovery and eating disorder support program.

What Is Psychoeducation?

An eating disorder therapist may offer psychoeducation to patients as part of an individualized treatment plan. Information provided by psychoeducation helps eating disorder patients and their support network understand the biological causes of mental illnesses as they related to an eating disorder. Research into the benefits of psychoeducation indicates that patients who have a deeper awareness of why they are compelled to engage in eating disordered behaviors typically lead to them feeling more in control of their thoughts and behaviors. Psychoeducation also helps eating disorder patients more fully understand how vital it is to their eating disorder recovery that they attend all counseling sessions, take medications as prescribed and use cognitive behavioral therapy techniques taught to them by their therapist.

Principles of psychoeducation were originally applied to people diagnosed with schizophrenia or other serious mental disorder. Today, psychoeducation is a popular component of treatment plans developed for patients with clinical depression, anxiety disorders, personality disorders and eating disorders. Providing psychoeducation is also a way to alleviate new fears sometimes brought about by a dual diagnosis of an eating disorder and mental illness. Patients and their families gain a comprehensive understanding of what is contributing to their eating disorder in terms of genetics, brain chemical imbalances, the role of cultural and media biases and repercussions of certain life experiences.

Psychoeducation Helps Substantiate Eating Disorders as Mental Illnesses

In an attempt to provide a holistic approach to the science of what it is to be human, psychoeducation embodies principles of dynamic psychology with cognitive behavioral counseling. Eating disorder therapists talk to patients about the hopes, purpose, goals and motivations behind self-perceptions as well as how the brain acquires and learns new skills and knowledge. Additionally, aspects of developmental psychology are incorporated into psychoeducational information, such as the uniqueness of individual maturation, biological fundamentals of human development and organic factors that influence a person’s self-identity.

Psychoeducation is an excellent method for educating both patients and their communities about eating disorders as a mental illness. Psychoeducation also enhances feelings of empowerment, reduces the stigma, guilt and shame surrounding mental illness and eating disorders and improves a patient’s problem-solving strategies by increasing their awareness of relapse risk factors and how to avoid or cope with them. Moreover, quantitative and qualitative data concerning the benefits of psychoeducation has shown that eating disorder patients suffering from major depression, anxiety and mood disorders often experience a lessening of symptoms before any prescribed medication has had time to take effect.

As recipients of psychoeducation therapy, eating disorder patients come to understand their eating disorder is a mental health problem that cannot be easily managed without support, and seeking anorexia, bulimia, binge-eating, and selective eating disorder treatment should not be stigmatized. For individuals with an eating disorder who suffer from depression, panic disorder, body dysmorphic disorder and other complex mental illnesses, psychoeducation leads to a deeper comprehension of the self, the mind and their innate ability to find the motivation and strength to complete an eating disorder recovery program.

Addressing Social Isolation While in Eating Disorder Treatment Programs

While in eating disorder treatment, patients must work with their care team to overcome social isolation while becoming recovered. Addressing this issue helps promote healing in recovery and builds the social support patients need. Social isolation occurs for many reasons and can be difficult to resolve in a short period of time.

For this reason, across all treatment options for eating disorders, each level of care focuses on restoring social connections and building that network in different ways. The treatment levels may help prepare patients to build social connections or use programming to bring the family together. Patients receive all the support they need in navigating this process and using healthy coping skills to handle any stress that may arise.

Through targeted therapy sessions and other beneficial activities, eating disorder therapists help their patients create strong social networks and rely on them effectively. This greatly benefits patients as strong social support networks help improve eating disorder treatment results and assist them in remaining recovered.

Why Social Isolation Occurs with Eating Disorders

When affected by eating disorders, many people want to hide their symptoms, habits, and challenges from their friends, family and the world. Social withdrawal tends to occur as a result, but there are other underlying factors to consider. As revealed by comprehensive studies, people with eating disorders tend to have naturally low trust levels in their friends, family, and other close loved ones. This makes them unwilling to disclose personal details in fear of judgment or other repercussions.

People with eating disorders may feel shame or guilt from engaging in disordered behaviors or even from entertaining negative thought patterns. They may have periods of irritability, low energy levels and frequent illnesses from a lack of nutrients. Emotional dysregulation can complicate matters even more. When these issues add up, they greatly impede people from reaching out to others or even feeling worthy of that contact.

Eating disorders can even take the place of close relationships with time as people look for ways to cope with the isolation. They may start to depend on their eating disorder thoughts and behaviors in the same way they would a friend. The disordered coping strategies start to become a crutch that replaces the benefits derived from family relationships and friendships altogether.

Potential Dangers of Social Isolation

The loneliness that occurs with isolation can make eating disorder symptoms and social withdrawal tendencies worse than ever. At their core, human beings are social creatures who need to experience personal connections to thrive. When they cannot maintain these connections, they may feel a void that leaves them looking for other ways to cope. As a result, they may rely on disordered coping methods to handle the loneliness, causing their eating disorder symptoms to worsen over time.

Even without worsening eating disorder symptoms, social isolation is dangerous to people’s health. Without meaningful contact with friends and family, the body starts to release high levels of stress hormones. Relying on disordered coping methods does little to mitigate the stress, allowing the hormones to cause minor to severe health issues, including:

  • High blood pressure
  • Chest pain
  • Nausea
  • Difficulties sleeping
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Poor focus

Consistently high-stress levels can also cause people to withdraw even more from social interaction, effectively becoming completely isolated. Without help at female and male eating disorder treatment centers, people may find it incredibly difficult to pull themselves out of this cycle and rebuild their social networks. The treatment center care team provides the framework and guidance that helps people recover from eating disorders and graduate with a strong social network in place.

Understanding Perceived vs. Actual Social Support

Social support comes in two forms: perceived and actual. It is important that people with eating disorders not only have an actual social support network in place but actually feel they do and can reach out effectively. Otherwise, their perceptions may make it seem like a social support network does not even exist. When people feel this way, they cannot effectively reach out to their loved ones and receive support when it is needed most. They may not even see reaching out for help as a choice.

Eating disorders and underlying mental health conditions can skew perceptions of social support and impede people from leaning on friends and family. They may feel like no one is actually there or even feel like they do not deserve the care and support. Fears about letting people in and receiving a judgment in return can cause people to put up walls and shut out their closest friends and family. This can slowly erode social support ties, necessitating a rebuilding period that usually occurs during eating disorder treatment.

When it is in place, the actual social support network has to provide actual care and support when people with eating disorders reach out to be truly effective. Every promise of support must be backed by action that helps bolster the perceptions of the individual in need of additional care and guidance. All support must come from a place free of judgment and full of love and compassion to have the greatest impact on the health and wellbeing of the recipient. With a strong and active social support network in place, it is possible to remove the negative perceptions to help people reach out effectively.

How a Strong Social Network Can Aid in Eating Disorder Recovery

Every person’s health and wellbeing is directly tied to having a strong social network and an ability to reach out as needed for help. With a strong network, people can remain resilient against health problems and recover quickly when issues do occur. Social support can also help aid people as they work on becoming recovered from eating disorders.

Treatment often focuses on building coping skills and using them to effectively eliminate disordered thoughts and behaviors caused by eating disorders. Social support is one of the most effective coping tools people have when they reach out to their friends and family at the first sign of a problem. Upon facing a difficult challenge, receiving support from a social group can provide insights and strengthen resilience that makes handling those issues much more approachable.

People in eating disorder treatment often benefit from directing their focus to healthy activities instead of entertaining disordered thoughts or engaging in dysfunctional behaviors. By participating in these activities as well, such as going on walks or picking up a new hobby, friends and family support people with eating disorders as they work on building their coping skills toolbox. They also provide a beneficial distraction from stressful situations by sharing time together, swapping stories and having a great time.

Ways Eating Disorder Treatment Centers Improve Social Connections

As social support remains an integral part of the eating disorder recovery process, treatment centers make building those networks a priority for their patients. People in eating disorder treatment are encouraged to identify those in their social networks and find ways to rebuild their connections. The treatment centers host family programming days and other events that encourage loved ones to visit and take part in the care process. The programming activities help educate loved ones about eating disorders and the process of becoming and remaining recovered. This helps them to understand what to expect and how to best participate in that process.

In addition to family programming, eating disorder centers often have family come in for individual and group therapy sessions. Through these sessions, people with eating disorders can share their stories and receive judgment-free support that helps break down the walls of social isolation. Their family members can share their side of the tale as well, helping to build connections through shared experiences.

In family group sessions, multiple families come together to give their perspectives and learn from each other. This helps to show people with eating disorders, and their loved ones, that they are not alone in their journey and have no reason to feel ashamed. Many times, people can give their full support and compassion to others well before they offer the same to themselves. By joining many families together in this way, eating disorder treatment patients can often start to make the connection that they also deserve the same level of compassion.

For all treatment options for eating disorders, building strong social networks remains an important part of the journey toward becoming and remaining recovered. With this step, it is possible to bolster the resilience and motivations of people in eating disorder treatment and give them the tools they need to remain recovered after graduation.

Patients can return to the treatment center anytime they need additional social support by attending the alumnae therapy sessions. These sessions allow graduates and their families to maintain connections to the eating disorder counseling center, its fully recovered staff, and their peers in recovery.

Methods for Coping While Building a Strong Social Network

Although developing social connections is vital for the recovery of people with eating disorders, the process can cause stress and trigger symptoms. Patients must find healthy coping tools and learn how to use them when faced with triggers to overcome these issues. Otherwise, the urge to isolate may grow ever stronger and disordered thought patterns could return.

The coping methods that work best depend on the preferences and perceptions of each patient at eating disorder treatment centers. Their unique experiences in recovery and social interactions also influence what coping methods might work best. Eating disorder therapists help their patients find the most effective coping skills and use them in real time. As patients encounter difficulties in maintaining social connections, they can come to their care team for additional support and guidance.

Patients also have plenty of support as they attend their daily therapy sessions. These sessions encourage processing of social visits and interactions to find any stressors that may exist. Upon identifying those difficult moments, therapists help their patients use their healthy coping skills to work past the distress. With each successful mitigation of distress, patients build confidence in their social interactions and ability to cope with triggers and stress.

Going Beyond Friends and Family in Finding Social Support

After graduating from eating disorder counseling centers, social support will help patients in remaining recovered throughout life. People who are recovered from eating disorders often benefit from looking beyond friends and family for support while continuing to nurture those relationships. The additional support can often be found in community groups and in social media.

Through social media connections in healthy support groups, people can see that they are surrounded by others facing similar difficulties in life. They receive the validation they need to fully appreciate their journey and celebrate their successes along the way. Reassurance and support exist whenever people need it when they are connected with others in easily-accessible online groups.

Community groups blend social interaction with the development of coping skills. People can come together to commiserate and practice new hobbies or other beneficial activities. The groups can center around whatever activity people favor most in coping well with daily stressors and eating disorder triggers. By building connections at every level, people can create a diverse social network that remains strong and accessible through all of life’s challenges.

When eliminating social isolation plays a major role in eating disorder treatment, patients can effectively build their support networks while working on becoming recovered. In addition to aiding in the recovery process, strong social support networks can assist patients in remaining recovered after graduating from eating disorder treatment.


Role of Dialectical Behavior Therapy in Binge Eating Treatment Programs

People with binge eating disorder can greatly benefit from attending treatment programs that use dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) as a core element. This therapeutic approach helps with emotional regulation and management using a combination of psychotherapy and skill-building activities. Each therapy session provides patients with validation and helps them address their biggest challenges. While undergoing DBT at binge eating treatment centers, patients also have opportunities to identify and confront triggers head on to begin on the road to recovery.

By using DBT as a part of the binge eating treatment process, patients can eliminate emotional dysregulation as a complicating factor. This helps to ensure patients can effectively use their coping skills to manage their stress levels and remain recovered through the years. The DBT therapy sessions also help to identify disordered thought patterns and behaviors affecting the patient and provides the tools they can use as alternatives.

As they enter the binge eating disorder program, patients can explore this topic in more detail to understand how treatment can help them make a full recovery. They can use this guide to get started in learning more about using dialectical behavior therapy as an integral component of binge eating disorder treatment.

Emotional Dysregulation and Its Impact on Binge Eating Recovery

Emotional dysregulation centers around an inability to control emotions and respond appropriately to those feelings. When people cannot properly handle big or overwhelming emotions, they may experience impulsive behaviors they cannot control or even rely on dysfunctional behaviors to get by. Disordered thoughts and behaviors related to eating disorders tend to help temporarily relieve feelings of emotional dysregulation. People may focus on limiting food intake or completing extra exercise sessions in an effort to control the way they feel inside.

These disordered attempts at managing stress only serve to make the problem worse in the long run. The eating disorder behaviors tend to cause a host of emotions to arise, such as sadness, frustration, and confusion, which worsen stress levels and throw emotions further out of balance. As overwhelming emotions and high-stress levels build, patients may experience impulsivity that also serves to complicate their situation.

Without learning how to regulate their emotions and avoid impulsive or disordered behaviors, patients cannot work toward binge eating recovery with purpose. To help out, treatment centers make it their priority to resolve this complicated issue and help their patients better regulate their emotional responses. To accomplish this goal, they use dialectical behavior therapy along with other effective therapeutic approaches in helping their patients.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy as a Path to Binge Eating Recovery

With dialectical behavior therapy, people working toward binge eating recovery are given the framework they need to build a strong toolbox filled with coping skills. This therapy module gets to the heart of emotional dysregulation issues that complicate the process of becoming recovered. As a result, patients are able to address their unique challenges and learn how to handle their emotions without relying on disordered behaviors.

Before patients can manage their emotions, they must fully identify and accept what they are feeling and why. Accurately pinpointing where the emotions are coming from is a lot easier than it sounds. DBT address this area quite well by introducing mindfulness to the equation. Patients can tap into their inner feelings and find causes for those heightened emotional states to better understand themselves and their place in the eating disorder recovery journey.

As patients move through the DBT sessions, they are provided opportunities to build a tolerance to distress and improve their effectiveness in managing interpersonal relationships. By focusing on all these areas, this therapeutic approach sets patients up for success in becoming and remaining recovered. Patients will gradually develop the resilience and skill sets they need to make a full recovery from binge eating disorder.

Four Modules of DBT and Their Importance in Eating Disorder Treatment

To fully explore these important areas in binge eating disorder recovery, dialectical behavior therapy introduces four distinct learning modules. These modules explore each vital area in detail to provide patients the coping tools and insights they need to leave eating disorder symptoms behind. Exploring these modules can help patients and their families prepare for eating disorder treatment and dialectical behavior therapy.

Mindfulness provides individuals with binge eating disorder the insights into how they feel at any given moment. When effective at using mindfulness to assess their state of wellbeing, patients can better identify their main emotions and the causes of each. Through this approach, they can minimize internal misunderstandings about personal motivations and feelings. The ability to use mindfulness effectively does not always come naturally to individuals, necessitating intensive training.

Mindfulness training begins with regular check-ins that allow patients to gauge their emotional responses throughout the day. These individuals need to notice, acknowledge and let go of the emotions to start to effectively use this practice in daily life. Patients need to remain aware of any judgments they may carry and try to let those go as well.

Although mindfulness can inspire action, responding to the emotions and trying to manage them in any way is not a part of this process. Mindfulness simply centers around acknowledging emotions and accepting them as fact to provide self-validation. This also helps to build awareness about inner feelings and emotional responses that can act as a guide in the future.
Tolerance of Distress

While at binge eating treatment centers, patients must work on tolerating distressing emotions that may arise. Distressing emotions are common during treatment as patients challenge disordered thoughts and face triggering situations. They must accept the emotions that arise as they use their toolbox of skills to cope or high-stress levels could throw everything off balance.

DBT focuses on distress tolerance to teach patients to wait through frustrating, confusing or overwhelming emotions rather than pursue instant gratification through dysfunctional coping behaviors. Eating disorder therapists help their patients acknowledge the emotions without responding in a maladaptive manner. As they work on limiting the big, impulsive responses, healthier ways of coping tend to come through instead. With each big step forward in tolerance distress, patients can shift to relying on their coping skills rather than worrying about having an uncontrollable emotional response.

Each success in avoiding impulsive reactions makes the next easier to achieve. If patients experience any setbacks while working on this skill, their therapists can help them find their footing and try again another day to make progress once again. Patients must continue to move forward in trying to tolerate distress to start to manage their emotions effectively and learn to trust themselves.
Regulation of Emotions

Another DBT module focuses on the regulation of emotions that are identified through mindfulness practices. This requires a willingness to leave behind disordered behaviors that are instantly gratifying but detrimental to the health and happiness of people with binge eating disorder. In regulating their emotions, they must acknowledge and validate how they feel before moving onto the control stage.

Once they have assessed their feelings without judgment, patients can work on applying coping skills in managing their emotions. The coping skills assist patients in working through their strong feelings without outbursts or other impulsive actions. This process takes time and requires a lot of practice to master. Patients may practice at the eating disorder treatment centers or go on outings to try out their toolbox of coping skills.

It is natural to experience setbacks along the way, especially when dealing with something as big as emotional regulation. Many people with eating disorders struggle with emotional dysregulation for their entire lives before seeking treatment. This means all of those learned behaviors and perceptions will need to be left behind before patients can effectively manage their emotions.
Interpersonal Effectiveness

Maintaining beneficial relationships can prove entirely too difficult when emotional dysregulation and binge eating disorder symptoms complicate each day. Patients may feel exhausted from simply attempting to control impulse actions and address the emotions that come rolling in day after day. They do not often have much energy left to give to developing and maintaining relationships with friends, family and significant others.

Dialectical behavior therapy aims to sort out this problem by introducing strategies patients can use to better manage interpersonal relationships. These strategies help mitigate the issues caused by binge eating disorder symptoms and emotional dysregulation as patients work on building their social network. This approach helps limit the outbursts and other impulsive responses to strong emotions to keep relationships intact and stronger than ever before.

This therapy module also helps patients learn how to be assertive and demand satisfaction of their own needs. They may learn how to stand up for themselves and set firm boundaries that protect their wellbeing. Patients also tend to develop an increased level of self-respect as they use their interpersonal skills to build respectful relationships.

While at eating disorder treatment centers, patients focus on moving through these four modules, building skills along the way. Eating disorder therapists may use worksheets and other educational materials to focus on particular skill sets each week. As patients build their skills, they are given opportunities to practice in real-life situations. Their challenges and success in practicing their DBT skills help to guide subsequent therapy sessions to keep patients on track to becoming recovered from binge eating disorder.

How Binge Eating Treatment Centers Use Dialectical Behavior Therapy

As developing emotional regulation skill is an integral part of binge eating recovery, effective treatment centers make dialectical behavior therapy part of their care process. By using this therapeutic approach to help their patients, it is possible to provide them the skills they need to become and remain recovered. Binge eating treatment centers may offer DBT sessions on a daily basis for those who need this care tactic most.

Patients can attend DBT sessions alongside their peers at group therapy or on their own during individualized sessions. Many patients elect to do skill-building activities as a group, but prefer to complete the psychotherapy sessions individually. Eating disorder therapists structure each patient’s care plan around their treatment preferences and needs. As a result, patients may start with this arrangement before moving onto a different therapy structure that better supports their continued recovery.
At each DBT session, patients are given opportunities to practice mindfulness and assess how they are feeling. With that information in mind, they can then go over their homework and discuss the skills learned in the prior week. The homework worksheets allow patients to identify insights about their binge eating disorder and the treatment process.

The result of the sessions focuses on teaching patients new skills and identifying how to use them effectively in becoming and remaining recovered. These new skills center around one of the four key modules used for DBT. Patients can then pick and choose from those skills to build a toolbox filled with coping methods that help them regulate their emotions and avoid disordered behaviors.
If this therapeutic model offers great benefits, patients can continue attending DBT sessions through binge eating treatment and well after graduating. This allows them to continue to build their skills and receive the support they need to remain recovered.

What to Expect After Graduation from an Eating Disorder Treatment Center

As people acquire care at eating disorder recovery centers, they build the coping skills they will need to remain recovered after graduation. With these tools, they can withstand the stresses of daily life without relying on disordered thoughts and behaviors as coping mechanisms. They are also better able to stay resilient in recovery from eating disorders and reach out for support whenever it is needed.

Although eating disorder therapists aim to prepare clients for graduation through every step of treatment, they offer additional support as the transition date nears. As clients approach their graduation date, the treatment team begins preparing them to follow their personalized aftercare plan. With this extra level of support, clients can address their challenges and identify ways to remain recovered as they handle real-life situations.

Understanding what to expect before and after graduating from obsessive eating disorder treatment can help clients move through this process with confidence. They can use this guide to start preparing themselves for this important transition and the start of the next chapter of their lives.

Creation of Aftercare Plan as Graduation from Eating Disorder Treatment Nears

An effective aftercare plan acts as a roadmap to remaining recovered while facing challenges as they come. Well before graduating, eating disorder therapists help their clients create a plan that will guide their eating disorder recovery journey after they leave treatment. This provides people with comfort and support as they navigate the demands of their daily lives and handle the stressors that arise.

The aftercare plan speaks to the challenges that may come up in recovery and sets out to identify the healthy coping skills that may help. It also describes the care teams and support systems available after inclient and outclient treatment ends. Aftercare plans should clearly spell out how to access support resources and best make use of them in remaining recovered. They will also tell clients who their aftercare providers will be for their eating disorders and all co-occurring conditions.

Depending on each client’s needs, other areas the aftercare plan may address includes:

  • Housing
  • Employment
  • Finances
  • Social network stability
  • Family dynamics
  • Parenting
  • Eating disorder triggers
  • Stress management

While remaining recovered, the aftercare plan will play a major role in coping with the ups and downs of daily life after graduating. Clients can refer back to it as needed to explore their options in coping and acquiring support from medical providers, therapists, family, friends, and other important individuals.

Education About Challenges During Transitions from Treatment to Home

While creating the aftercare plan, much discussion will surround the upcoming challenges after leaving eating disorder recovery centers. These challenges range from minorly stressful situations, such as going grocery shopping, to more serious ones, like losing a loved one. Clearly identifying these challenges and linking them with helpful coping skills can assist clients in remaining recovered with confidence.

Although people with eating disorders share many challenges, they may have their own unique difficulties to conquer as well. Eating disorder therapists work with clients to define each challenge as it relates to the person in treatment and their unique journey to becoming recovered.

Challenges identified during this stage may include:

  • Managing strong emotions
  • Facing food fears
  • Mitigating high stress levels
  • Remaining flexible in daily life
  • Staying accountable through mindfulness
  • Reaching out to build and strengthen social bonds
  • Keeping lines of communication open

Clients can sail through the transition home from eating disorder treatment and remain recovered by handling these challenges in beneficial ways. This means using helpful coping skills to get past the difficulties and keep them from causing disordered thoughts and behaviors to return. Before clients can use their skills to handle every challenge ahead, they must identify the ones that will make the biggest difference in each situation.

Identification of Helpful Coping Skills to Use After Leaving Eating Disorder Recovery Centers

Eating disorder therapists help clients dig through their toolboxes of coping skills to match them to potential challenges they may face in remaining recovered. This exercise aids in preparing clients to handle their affairs on their own after leaving treatment. Through this process, they gain the ability to select from the coping skills they have to find the ones that offer the greatest benefits in the moment. Here are a few skills that clients may discuss while preparing to transition home after treatment.

  • Mindfulness Meditation

As learned and relied on during treatment, mindfulness meditation will serve as an important coping tool after graduation from eating disorder treatment near me. This practice combines mindfulness and meditation to help identify daily stressors and cope with the strong emotions that may arise.

  • Journaling

Through regular journaling, graduates from eating disorder recovery centers can keep track of their emotions and the coping skills that work. By compiling this information, they create a personal guide detailing their eating disorder triggers, reactions to stressful situations and the ability to rely on healthy coping skills.

  • Self-Care

Through excellent self-care practices, graduates can decrease their stress levels and better manage their emotions. Self-care looks different to every person, so it is important to identify the practices that apply best. For some, this might look like spa treatments and quiet walks, while others may practice self-care through funny movie nights with friends.

As people move through recovery and experience shifts in their mindsets, the coping skills that help most may change. With this reassessment, clients can determine what will work best as they head home to remain recovered on their own. To make sure they are not truly heading into this process alone, treatment center professionals focus on the social support system next.

Verification that a Strong Social Support System is in Place and Prepared to Help

Social support networks can greatly aid in recovery by providing care through tough challenges and celebrating personal successes as a group. Coming together in this manner ensures that people have the support they need to move forward in their daily lives. This level of support also helps to minimize the recurrence of disordered thought patterns and behaviors.

People in the clients’ lives can also watch for the warning signs of eating disorders and help their loved ones seek help as needed. They can encourage their loved ones to contact eating disorder treatment near me to find the resources that will help them stay on track in recovery.

Since social support plays such an important role in remaining recovered, preparing for the transition period after graduation includes discussions about these connections. The people in the social networks of each client may include friends, family members, neighbors and their peers in treatment. This ensures that people have an extensive network of individuals to rely on in their day to day lives.

Throughout recovery, treatment centers help foster these relationships through family programming, group therapy sessions, and outings with friends and family. This helps ensure a strong social network exists well before people start to prepare to graduate from eating disorder recovery centers.

Transfer of Care to Outside Eating Disorder Treatment Therapists and Other Providers

When people graduate from obsessive eating disorder treatment, their therapists transfer care to outsider providers. These providers help monitor the health and wellbeing of the client as they remain recovered from eating disorders. They also provide treatment for co-occurring medical conditions that were diagnosed during, or prior to, starting their journey toward recovery.

Eating disorder treatment professionals only refer their clients to outside providers skilled in using proven therapeutic approaches. These approaches align with those used at the treatment centers, helping ease the client’s transition from one care team to another. Through this process, clients can expect to receive the same high level of care they enjoyed at the eating disorder recovery centers.

The providers utilize their knowledge and experience to develop and follow relapse prevention strategies for all their clients. People who are remaining recovered can come to these providers anytime they feel extra support is warranted, such as when disordered thought patterns arise.

Introduction to Alumnae Services Provided by Eating Disorder Recovery Centers

Graduates from eating disorder treatment centers can rely on alumnae services for support as well. Eating disorder therapists help their clients learn more about these services as they prepare for graduation.

By accessing the alumnae support services as needed in recovery, clients can stay connected to their treatment center staff and peer through groups and webinars. These onsite groups and online seminars renew motivations to remain recovered as challenges arise. They also offer insightful information and new perspectives that help people stay on track in using their healthy coping skills. Other support services offered to alumnae include:

  • Educational blogs
  • Interesting newsletters
  • Supportive online community groups

Alumnae services go beyond helping the graduate to help their family as well. Family members can log into the online portal as needed to view information in the resource library and access past webinar content.

Follow Up with Care Team to Assess Wellness and Adjust the Aftercare Plan

Depending on their aftercare plan, some clients may need to return to the treatment center a week or so after graduation for a follow-up appointment. At this visit, therapists at eating disorder treatment centers assess how their clients are feeling and discuss their challenges in recovery. As they reveal areas that prove challenging, they can address those factors with an adjustment to the aftercare plan.

This follow-up appointment sets the tone for eating disorder recovery, as it shows clients that they can still benefit from ongoing insights and care from skilled therapists. They learn that they will only receive support, not judgment, in reaching out and sharing the story of their journey. The compassionate response of their care team reinforces that the clients are worthy of care as well.

After this follow-up appointment, eating disorder therapists may send their findings to the outside providers to help them craft their own personalized care plans for their clients. With this level of collaboration, clients can trust that they have the network of support they need to remain recovered for life.

How to Rely on Eating Disorder Treatment Centers to Remain Fully Recovered

Eating disorder treatment centers are always available to help their graduates navigate life after leaving inpatient or outpatient care programs. Their clients can contact them anytime disordered thoughts and behaviors have the potential to return and acquire the help they need in handling those challenges. The eating disorder treatment center staff will use their knowledge to assist clients in pushing past those issues using adaptive coping skills.

All it takes is a single call to the admissions specialists to discuss the client’s needs and find the right level of care. They may suggest using alumnae resources to overcome the challenges or have the care team collaborate to find other options. Clients can trust that they will always receive the guidance and support needed to remain recovered while contacting their care team at eating disorder treatment centers.


Males & Eating Disorders

Conventional Wisdom tells us 1 in 10 people with eating disorders are male, but data suggests 25% of diagnosable cases occur in males.  Unfortunately, the under reporting is likely a result of stigma, lack of sensitivity and detection, and gendered perceptions of eating and dieting. The lower occurrence of eating disorders in males may, however, also be attributed to gendered differences in the risk and maintaining factors for eating disorders.  Difference in biology, brain organization and temperament may insulate men against risk. Continue reading…