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Impact of Eating Disorders on Quality of Life – and How Treatment Centers Can Help

The complex nature of eating disorders and their symptoms cause these conditions to have a profoundly negative impact on quality of life. From bulimia nervosa to selective eating disorder, each condition presents unique challenges that must be addressed in an eating disorder treatment program. Across all eating disorder conditions, disordered thoughts and actions can quickly lead to compulsions that threaten to overtake every minute of daily life. Without care at effective eating disorder treatment centers, patients often work overtime attempting to maintain habits centered around eating disorder symptoms.

This exhausting way of life can quickly break down even the strongest of people, as they try to juggle their eating disorder and daily obligations. Fortunately, help can be found at eating disorder treatment centers that focus on helping their patients become and remain recovered. Through the journey toward a full recovery, patients learn how to maintain healthy thought patterns and behaviors with evidence-based therapy models.

Insights on how eating disorder symptoms can negatively impact daily life can assist patients in determining if they are ready to work toward becoming recovered. With this guide, patients can not only learn how eating disorders affect the quality of life but also how treatment centers can help with those issues.

Types of Eating Disorders That Can Negatively Impact Quality of Life

Whether they occur on their own or together, eating disorders of all kinds can have a negative impact on quality of life. Eating disorders that can impede daily activities and otherwise decrease the patient’s quality of life include bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and restrictive food intake disorder.

Each of these eating disorders requires a personalized treatment approach that focuses on eliminating symptoms and replacing disordered thoughts and behavioral patterns. Using evidence-based care practices, eating disorder therapists can help their patients become recovered and regain their quality of life through the treatment of the eating disorders and their co-occurring conditions.

Daily Life Impacts from Eating Disorder Symptoms

In a 2013 study, results showed that people with eating disorders have a markedly decreased quality of life compared to the rest of the population. The type of symptoms the patients exhibited also had an impact on quality of life perceptions, with binging and purging behaviors having the biggest negative impact.

People with eating disorders experienced the most difficulties when their eating disorder symptoms progressed to a point that impaired their daily lives. The immense amount of time devoted to controlling food intake and physical activity, for example, can impede people’s ability to tend to their daily obligations, leading to problems down the road. The impairment of their daily lives and resulting dive in quality of life perceptions can increase motivation to become recovered, opening the doors for intake into an eating disorder recovery center.

Other aspects of the patient’s life may eventually start to decline, as the lack of attention results in noticeable impacts. A lack of treatment for eating disorders can lead to the breakdown of personal and professional relationships and connections that took a lot of work to establish. Therefore, it is important for people with eating disorders to seek prompt treatment upon becoming aware of the problem.

Any delay in acquiring treatment for eating disorders can lead to physical and mental health complications for the patient. These complications can make the journey toward recovery more challenging, but still approachable with help from knowledgeable eating disorder therapists.

Physical Health Repercussions of Eating Disorder

Without an adequate intake of food, and often in the face of excessive daily exercise, patients can suffer physical health repercussion from eating disorders rather quickly. The physical symptoms may initially manifest as stomach cramps, dizziness, fainting spells, dry skin, brittle nails, and muscle weakness. Weight loss may not actually be immediately noticeable, but will likely become obvious as the eating disorder progresses in severity.

As the low-calorie intake, and resulting vitamin deficiencies, continue to worsen, so do the physical symptoms. People with eating disorders start to grow fine hair all over their body, suffer tooth decay and damage, experience salivary gland swelling and other serious complications. Dehydration is almost always a concern as eating disorder symptoms worsen and take hold of daily life.

In the end, untreated eating disorders can even cause lasting damage to the internal organs, including the heart, kidneys, and liver. These physical symptoms tend to worsen the disordered thoughts and behaviors, as self-confidence decreases even further. The physical symptoms can also impair daily life by preventing freedom of movement and independent living. People with severe dizziness, for example, may not be able to drive themselves around until they are ready to complete treatment with help from an experienced therapist. Mental health complications can also impede daily life for people with untreated eating disorders.

Mental Health Complications Caused by Eating Disorders

Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and other types of eating disorders can have an incredibly negative impact on mental health. Eating disorder symptoms and behaviors can reinforce disordered thought patterns, leading to the constant degradation of self-esteem. Already low self-esteem levels may plummet as the disordered thought patterns and compulsive behaviors serve to reinforce each other. Furthermore, the disordered thoughts urges, and behaviors caused by eating disorders can lead to depression and anxiety.

Underlying mental health disorders can also contribute to the development of eating disorders. Effective eating disorder therapists must treat all mental health conditions and eating disorders to remove this link and help the patient become recovered. A multi-faceted approach to the eating disorder treatment process allows therapists to address all conditions at once and help the patient achieve their goals. With help from outside providers, the care process continues after patients leave the treatment program to promote continued recovery.

Widespread Impact on Quality of Life of People in the Patient’s Support System

Although the patient’s quality of life and journey remains paramount, eating disorders can have a negative impact on the lives of people in the inner social circle. These close friends and family members may have issues coping with the lifestyle changes and demands that come with many eating disorder symptoms. The physical and mental health repercussions can also cause people in the patient’s inner circle to worry and stress about their loved one. As these issues take a toll, the social circle loses its ability to adequately support the patient as they work toward pursuing selective eating disorder treatment.

With their understanding of the challenges that loved ones face in supporting others as they work toward becoming recovered from eating disorders. An excellent eating disorder recovery center will bring in family members for guided therapy sessions that renew bonds and strengthen the social circle of the patient. These sessions help to increase understanding and build connections that were damaged or lost before the patient entered selective eating disorder treatment.

How Becoming Recovered Can Improve Quality of Life

A constant preoccupation with controlling weight and tending to other eating disorder symptoms can decimate quality of life for patients and people in their support system. With the completion of a great eating disorder treatment program, however, people can restore their quality of life and strengthen connections with those in their inner social circle.

The treatment program focuses on teaching patients how to maintain a healthy weight and exercise routine without the use of overly restrictive behaviors and thought patterns. Upon leaving the treatment center, patients can utilize their skills to effortlessly maintain a healthy relationship with food and physical activity. The elimination of all eating disorder symptoms during the treatment process gives patients their lives back. Without these disordered thoughts and behaviors dominating the day, patients can work on their personal and professional goals without disruption.

Before entering eating disorder treatment programs, many people first experience a huge quality of life dip that has a ripple effect across their inner social circle. With help from a skilled eating disorder therapist, all quality of life decreases can be reversed with a return to healthy eating and exercise patterns.

Understanding How Eating Disorder Treatment Centers Help with Recovery

Eating disorder treatment centers often have several levels of care available for patients with different disorders and symptom severity. For all patients, the treatment centers around educating the client and supporting their switch to healthier habits and behaviors. Eating disorder treatment often includes individual, family and group therapy to give the patient insights and perspectives that broaden their view of the eating disorder and its effects.

While working toward becoming recovered, people with eating disorders learn how to eliminate restrictive behaviors and replace them with healthier alternatives. Throughout the process, patients receive support with handling their dietary intake, exercise and health needs. To promote continued recovery after leaving the eating disorder recovery center, therapists help their patients build a strong understanding of the appropriate expression of feelings and acceptance of their natural body shape.

Nutrition experts, doctors, and mental health professionals all contribute to the care of people in eating disorder treatment centers. These professionals collaborate to ensure the patient continues to make progress toward achieving their goal of eating disorder recovery. The medical and nursing care helps to mitigate the impact of eating disorders on the physical and mental health of the patient. This approach allows for the full treatment of all co-occurring conditions to give patients the best start in becoming recovered.

People with eating disorders can move through the different levels of care to receive comprehensive support every step of the way. Residential treatment programs can break the cycle of disordered thoughts and behaviors with relocation to a neutral setting. While in the residential treatment program, patients can work on achieving and maintaining eating disorder recovery with help from their therapists. Upon achieving key treatment goals, patients can move on to the day eating disorder treatment program to continue learning and building skills until they are ready to maintain recovery on their own.

Pursing Improved Quality of Life at an Eating Disorder Recovery Center

As quality of life declines in response to the impacts of eating disorders, patients can seek care at eating disorder treatment centers to become recovered.  Eating disorder therapists can help their patients achieve their goals in achieving eating disorder recovery to regain their quality of life. Going through treatment for their eating disorders, and all underlying conditions also helps to restore the strength of bonds with people in the patient’s inner social circle.

Through bulimia, anorexia nervosa and selective eating disorder treatment programs, people can learn the coping and life skills they need to maintain proper eating and exercise patterns. The ability to achieve wellness comes much easier when people with eating disorders receive the support they need from a knowledgeable care team. People interested in acquiring support from a skilled therapist can call us or contact us online to speak to our admissions professionals. We will help all our patients reach their goals in entering an effective treatment program to achieve eating disorder recovery.

Melissa Orshan Spann, PhD, LMHC, RTY 200, is Chief Clinical Officer at Monte Nido & Affiliates, overseeing the clinical operations and programming for over 50 programs across the U.S. Dr. Spann is a Certified Eating Disorder Specialist and clinical supervisor as well as an accomplished presenter and passionate clinician who has spent her career working in the eating disorder field in higher levels of care. She is a member of the Academy for Eating Disorders and the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals where she serves on the national certification committee, supervision faculty, and is on the board of her local chapter. She received her doctoral degree from Drexel University, master’s degree from the University of Miami, and bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida.