Person eating salad while taking first steps in treatment for eating disorders

First Steps in Treating an Eating Disorder

Eating disorders are some of the most frequently diagnosed mental health conditions. Although many people associate them with adolescents and young adult females, they affect a much broader demographic. With the support of dedicated professionals such as dietitians and counselors, individuals can take the initial steps of eating disorder treatment to manage their condition and live more fulfilling lives.

Seeking help is one of the vital first steps in treatment for eating disorders. At Promises, our mental health treatment center specializes in treating individuals of all ages and from all walks of life. We offer comprehensive services to help clients develop healthier lifestyles, so contact us at 844.875.5609 to start your path toward long-term recovery.

What Are Eating Disorders?

An eating disorder is a mental health condition that affects how people view their bodies, food, and how they eat. Irregular eating habits and extreme distress or concern about body weight or shape characterize most eating disorders. 

Common types of eating disorders include:

  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Bulimia nervosa
  • Binge eating disorder
  • Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID)
  • Other specified feeding or eating disorders (OSFED)

Here’s what to know about each type’s characteristics and potential consequences.

Anorexia Nervosa

People with anorexia nervosa have an intense fear of gaining weight. They maintain low body weight through restrictive dieting, excessive exercise, purging, or behaviors such as fasting. Anorexia can lead to serious health problems such as malnutrition, dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and organ damage.

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa involves cycles of consuming large amounts of food followed by attempts to purge the body through vomiting or laxative use. This type of disordered eating behavior can severely damage health due to the regular destruction of tooth enamel from stomach acid and heart irregularities from chronic dehydration. 

Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating disorder involves frequent episodes of overeating or consuming large amounts of calories in a short amount of time. Binging occurs in secret because individuals feel shame about their behavior. People with this disorder may also struggle with guilt or depression related to difficulty controlling their urges to eat large quantities at once. 

Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) 

The defining feature of ARFID is avoidance or restriction in types and amounts of foods based on sensory characteristics such as texture, taste, or smell rather than concerns about body size or shape. ARFID can lead to significant nutritional deficiencies if left untreated due to the lack of variety in the individual’s diet. 

Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorders (OSFED) 

If symptoms don’t meet the criteria for other eating disorders but still cause significant distress or impairment, treatment specialists refer to these as OSFED. These disorders cover a wide range, from night-eating syndrome, wherein individuals experience cravings for high-calorie snacks late at night, to orthorexia, wherein individuals become overly focused on only consuming ‘healthy’ foods rather than a balanced diet.

First Steps in Treatment for Eating Disorders

Though eating disorders are challenging to treat, proper care can be life-changing. The recommended course of treatment depends on the specific type of disorder and symptoms. 

One of the first steps in treatment for eating disorders is an evaluation by a mental health professional, such as a psychologist, psychiatrist, or clinical social worker. During the initial assessment, treatment specialists comprehensively evaluate an individual’s physical, mental, and emotional health. The evaluation may include the following:

  • A physical exam
  • Psychological testing and self-report measures
  • A discussion about nutrition and dieting practices

Completing these initial steps of eating disorder treatment is crucial to setting clients on the path to recovery and preventing serious or potentially life-endangering complications.

Developing a Treatment Plan

After the evaluation, clinicians and counselors start building a treatment program that addresses an individual’s needs. Learning to manage their disorder and keep symptoms under control is a long-term process for clients. Being committed to treatment in the long haul is crucial to success. 

Treatment specialists base a person’s recovery plan on a combination of things, including:

  • Treatment goals
  • Severity of symptoms
  • Physical health and medical needs
  • Resources such as health insurance coverage

Developing a recovery plan is a collaborative effort between the client and their treatment team of doctors, mental health care professionals, and registered dietitians. As part of the program, an individual may participate in a variety of therapies and activities, such as:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Dialectical behavior therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Nutritional counseling
  • Exercise classes

Treatment plans include specific guidelines so that participants know what to expect. With these services and support systems, clients may have a better chance at lasting recovery and greater life satisfaction. 

Get Eating Disorder Treatment at Promises Behavioral Health

You don’t have to suffer alone. Promises Behavioral Health helps clients take the first steps in treatment for eating disorders. Our caring staff will work with you to develop an effective plan of action that addresses your unique struggles. We can help you take charge of your mental health for a brighter future tomorrow.

At Promises, we’re committed to treating those with eating disorders and other mental health conditions. We use evidence-based, holistic therapies to help people manage symptoms and learn healthier ways of living. To learn more about our treatment programs for eating disorders, contact us at 844.875.5609 or through our online form

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