The Most Important Part of Eating Disorder Treatment

Recent exposure to non-clinical blogs and videos has led me to review my own blog and reflect on the overall message of my writing. I was surprised to see only a limited number of posts specifying treatment differences between anorexia and bulimia. However, there are a lot of posts about obesity and binge eating disorder, two increasingly recognizable eating disorders only now getting attention from the mental health community. 

But the majority of the posts concern the psychological experience of having an eating disorder and the treatment approaches necessary to counteract and heal that suffering. 

The nature of treating people with eating disorders has clearly inspired me to focus primarily on what leads to the difficult changes in the thought processes central to the eating disorder. My experience treating adults with eating disorders led me to realize that finding ways to fight the thoughts is necessary for recovery. 

The eating disorder treatment community has now created treatment centers, both inpatient and outpatient, that help people with eating disorders find immediate stability with food and nutrition. Depending on the severity of malnutrition and behaviors, almost every person can find appropriate care, often even covered by health insurance, to accomplish short-term medical stability. 

These patients leave treatment after a month or two and almost always quickly relapse within a few months. The gains of medical stabilization do nothing to change the eating disorder thought processes which inevitably consume the person's mind and restart the behavioral cycle. 

The path from seeking treatment options, attending a program followed by relapse is exhausting and demoralizing. The process of recovery really starts after discharge and involves help from an experienced team and the daily struggle of identifying the eating disorder mindset, questioning it while adjusting behaviors around food and body. That process, day in day out, is the work of recovery that leads to becoming fully well. It's painstaking work.

I have come to know the intimate details of what true recovery looks like. I have seen people suffer with relapse and struggle to apply everything they know for the purpose of getting well. This experience is both heartwarming and excruciating and has led me to want to share my experience two ways.

First, I want to help people in recovery understand they are not alone: there are crucial parts of recovery that are universal. Second, I want people in recovery to understand the key mental and relational components of what makes treatment more effective.

The urgency to share these two things has inspired the majority of posts to this blog. In my mind, these key points reflect the needed parts of a treatment plan that lead to full recovery and to open the door to personal discovery.

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