Eating Disorder Treatment

Eating disorders and disordered eating are often rooted in trauma or underlying mental health conditions. They are considered maladaptive behaviors that usually develop in childhood as a way to cope. There are several types of eating disorders including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating; oftentimes people with eating disorders also struggle with mental illness. Here at Sabino Recovery, we understand that in order to successfully treat eating disorders the diagnosis must be for the whole person and not just simply address the eating disorder symptoms. This is why we offer a variety of mental health services, comprehensive treatment plans, and psychological treatments that are individualized for each of our residents.

Behaviors, beliefs, and thoughts around eating may meet the criteria for an eating disorder diagnosis such as binge eating disorder. At times, people may have eating behaviors that don’t meet the criteria for an eating disorder diagnosis, however, the eating patterns may be considered disordered. An example of someone who may not seek treatment would be a person that frequently overeats when under stress but doesn’t engage enough to be diagnosed with a binge eating disorder. Other examples might include those who are focused on body image, body weight, or eating a restricted range of foods but does not meet the full criteria for a diagnosis of anorexia.

Why is Our Eating Disorder Treatment Program Right for You?

Prior to treatment, every potential resident is screened to ensure safety can be maintained while at Sabino Recovery. Upon admission, residents receive an integrative medical and psychiatric evaluation that drives planning for treating eating disorders. For those residents with a diagnosed eating disorder, a nutritional assessment and regular appointments are included in the program. Each plan is customized to provide support for the individual’s unique needs. Residents are educated about healthy lifestyles, encouraged to challenge engrained behaviors, and supported in their recovery. We offer medical monitoring, mealtime support, and after-meal monitoring consistently throughout treatment for those clinically indicated.

Sabino Recovery’s team is highly experienced in this field. Our Physician’s assistant has a degree in dietetics and is well versed in intuitive eating and nutritional consultation. Our clinical outreach specialist has over 7 years of experience working with this specific population and collaborates with the clinical team utilizing her background in nutrition and dietetics. Our registered dietitian has over 30 years in the field of eating disorders and trains dietitians in the treatment of eating disorders. Our Lead BHT (behavioral health technician) has over 20 years of experience working in eating disorder treatment centers, and our neuro therapist began her career working exclusively with this population.

Anorexia nervosa

People suffering from anorexia nervosa tend to view themselves as overweight or obese, even though they are often underweight. Those who struggle with anorexia weigh themselves frequently, diet rigorously, exercise to exhaustion, may use laxatives or emetics to eliminate “unwanted” calories. Restrictive eating leads to a lack of nutrients available in the body which causes emaciation, where the body begins to break down its tissues.

Social disengagement, a lack of feeling, impatience, or an inability to comprehend the gravity of the situation are all common examples of emotional symptoms of anorexia. People may be wary of eating in public and create food rituals, such as chewing a particular amount of times before swallowing. People suffering from anorexia become preoccupied with weighing themselves repeatedly as they are terrified of gaining weight and will not accept a healthy or average weight.

A profile of the risk factors for anorexia include:

  • Being extremely concerned about weight and appearance, paying more attention to it
  • Being diagnosed with an anxiety condition in childhood
  • Having a poor self-perception
  • Having issues with feeding in infancy or early childhood
  • Having particular social or cultural perspectives on health and beauty
  • Obsessing over perceived flaws

Low body fat levels mean that a person can appear to be ill. Their body slows down to conserve energy and, for women, this might result in missed periods. Pains and symptoms such as dehydration, abnormal heart rhythms, stomach discomfort, poor blood pressure, and difficulty sleeping are also possible. Symptoms also include:

  • Brittle hair and nails
  • Anemia
  • Dry and yellowish skin
  • Brain impairment over time

Anorexia generally develops in adolescence or early adulthood. Females are more likely to have it, but males also struggle with anorexia. In general, caucasian women who are strong academic achievers and have a goal-oriented family or personality are more likely to develop the condition.

Bulimia Nervosa

People with bulimia nervosa tend to have either compulsive overeating, binge eating, or both. The result is a lack of control over the need to consume. Additionally, the individual may make themselves sick to avoid gaining weight. Those diagnosed with bulimia consume excessive amounts of food in uncontrollable outbursts. Binge eating is often followed by compensatory actions, such as laxatives, fasting, vomiting, or excessive exercise. Bulimia nervosa sufferers might be slim, average weight, or even obese. Eating binges might occur many times each day for months on end.

There are a host of emotional issues related to eating disorders. For example, people with these disorders often have poor body image, which leads to low self-esteem. In addition, sufferers feel out of control of their behaviors, feel guilty or shameful about eating, and distance themselves from family and friends. Symptoms include:

  • Chronically inflamed and sore throat
  • Swollen salivary glands in the neck and jaw area
  • Worn tooth enamel and increasingly sensitive and decaying teeth as a result of exposure to stomach acid
  • Acid reflux disorder and other gastrointestinal problems
  • Intestinal distress and irritation from laxative abuse
  • Severe dehydration from purging of fluids
  • Electrolyte imbalance (too low or too high levels of sodium, calcium, potassium, and other minerals), which can lead to stroke or heart attack

The physical toll bulimia takes is significant. It can include organ damage, such as damage to the digestive system or teeth worn out by repeated vomiting. In many circumstances, the rapid depletion of electrolytes in the body that results from purging can lead to serious medical problems such as cardiac arrhythmia, heart failure, and even death. A swollen, painful throat, as well as persistently enlarged glands, are other symptoms. Those with bulimia tend to be around average in weight or might be much heavier.

Binge Eating

Those who suffer from binge eating disorders lose control over their eating. Their meals are rushed, and they consume a lot of food in a short time. They may eat even when not hungry; even when uncomfortably full, they may still have the compulsion to eat. People may feel guilty after a binge. Unlike those with bulimia, they don’t try to “cancel out” the calories they have eaten. People with binge eating disorders may express shame and embarrassment following a binge. They will often eat alone or secretly to escape humiliation. At Sabino Recovery, we treat the symptoms and behaviors associated with eating disorders and address the root trauma that perpetuates the cycle.

Finding New Ways

At Sabino Recovery, we offer the resources and cutting-edge therapies that treat eating disorders by addressing the underlying cause. Studies suggest that trauma-focused treatment can benefit those battling eating disorders. Trauma interventions such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) are types of psychotherapy that can help people heal from the symptoms and emotional distress resulting from disturbing life experiences that can lead to eating disorders.

Taking advantage of neuroplasticity can help rewire the neural pathways in the brain and change maladaptive behaviors. Integrated therapies work to dissipate feelings of shame and help to reinforce the strong person amidst the struggle. At Sabino Recovery, it is our job to reconnect residents with their sense of self-worth. Physical perfection is an illusion that we can all fall prey to sometimes. However, the narrative of fear and falling short of expectations can be rewritten to reflect not the perceptions of others but the knowledge that one can be whole, happy, and safe in their own skin.