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Learn more about the results we get at Within

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How to treat eating disorders at home

Eating disorders are serious mental health conditions that affect millions of people around the world. In the United States alone, it is estimated that 30 million people will have an eating disorder at some point in their lives.1

The most common types of eating disorders include anorexia nervosa (AN), bulimia nervosa (BN), and binge-eating disorder (BED). These disorders can have numerous physical and emotional consequences, including malnutrition, dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, depression, anxiety, and even death.2

Thankfully, there are treatment options available, including eating disorder home care, and recovery is very possible. In this article, we'll look at how to treat eating disorders at home, and where to find professional help for eating disorders.

Last updated on 
December 13, 2023
How to treat eating disorders at home
In this article

Understanding how to treat eating disorders at home

Eating disorder treatment at home has been available for some time, with patients generally working through their disordered behavior through a combination of workbooks and occasional in-person visits, phone calls, or support group or group therapy sessions.

But with the advance of technology, it's possible to practice even more powerful versions of eating disorder home treatment. The internet allows for teletherapy and telemedicine, with patients staying connected with their healthcare providers through websites, apps, and over the phone, all while staying at home.

At-home treatment options for eating disorders

Eating disorder treatment generally involves a mix of one-on-one and family therapy, dietary support, counseling, support groups, and medication.

Starting treatment early can minimize or avoid future issues altogether while promoting healthy eating behaviors and other improvements to everyday life. Still, the level of care required usually depends on how severe the disorder is for the individual.

In some situations, intensive outpatient treatments might be an option based on how severe the disorder is and what kind of treatment the individual needs.4,3,13,14 However, patients can also receive at-home care for eating disorders on a day program or outpatient program level.

Call Within today to speak to a treatment advisor.
Get help now

How effective is eating disorder home treatment?

Supporters of eating disorder home treatment highlight many benefits, such as reduced cost and increased family involvement.5 Results from studies show that at-home care, such as guided self-help and online interventions, can be highly effective in reducing eating disorder symptoms and behaviors and improving quality of life.6 

One study compared the effectiveness of two different family-based treatment programs for adolescent anorexia nervosa: one delivered in a day treatment program and one delivered in an outpatient setting. The results showed that both programs were effective in promoting weight restoration and reducing eating disorder symptoms, but (and here’s the key) the outpatient program was associated with better outcomes for those who lived at home with their families.7

Outpatient treatment amongst those who live at home with their families may have better outcomes.

Another study found that telehealth services for eating disorder patients during the COVID-19 pandemic led to significant improvements in symptoms and mood, with patients rating the treatment quality and therapeutic alliance highly. This suggested that telehealth is an acceptable alternative to face-to-face therapy in such circumstances.8

A randomized controlled trial that compared the effectiveness of virtual family-based treatment (FBT) with standard FBT for adolescent anorexia nervosa showed that virtual FBT was as effective as standard FBT in promoting weight restoration and reducing eating disorder symptoms and was associated with high levels of treatment satisfaction.9

Benefits of eating disorder recovery at home

At-home treatment for eating disorders offers perks like easier access to specialized mental health care, especially for those in remote or rural areas. It's a handy, cost-friendly solution that cuts out travel and even time off work.

Telepsychiatry has also been successful in treating mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders, all conditions that often go hand-in-hand with eating disorders.10,11

Telehealth can be offered at several levels of care, with programs tailored for day program treatment, intensive outpatient care, or outpatient treatment, depending on an individual’s specific needs.

What we offer at Within

Partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs
Personalized meal delivery
Insurance options
Dedicated care team
Schedule tailored to your individual needs
Family involvement
Post-treatment alumni program

Possible setbacks of eating disorder home care

While home treatment for eating disorders offers many benefits, it's important to keep in mind that it doesn't work for everyone.12

It is important to mention to your treatment team if you have experienced any of the following symptoms, as it may make treatment from home more challenging:

  1. Fainting spells
  2. Low blood pressure (<80/60) or persistently low heart rate (<40)
  3. Going days to weeks without eating or drinking
  4. Suicidal ideation
  5. Severe depression
  6. Concurrent excessive substance use
  7. Uncontrolled diabetes, or other health conditions like heart disease
  8. Severe dehydration

While this is not a comprehensive list, inpatient treatment is generally the safest option in these cases. So, good communication with your healthcare providers is crucial to finding what works best.

Eating disorder home treatment at Within

What underpins the effectiveness of virtual care is the continuity it offers. Your healthcare providers are with you every step through treatment and recovery at your own pace. Moreover, virtual care can be personalized to fit your needs and preferences.

At Within, we have a team of multidisciplinary experts who can help address the various emotional, psychological, and physical issues that work to develop and maintain unhealthy eating behaviors and thoughts.

Our team will create a tailored program for you based on your specific history and needs, allowing you to benefit from various options, including virtual support groups and individual teletherapy sessions.

Remote eating disorder recovery

While home recovery from an eating disorder may present hurdles, virtual care can act as a bridge, linking intensive inpatient treatment and home recovery. With ongoing support, consistent care, and custom treatment choices, virtual care at Within can instill confidence and drive success in your recovery journey.

Get help today

Disclaimer about "overeating": Within Health hesitatingly uses the word "overeating" because it is the term currently associated with this condition in society, however, we believe it inherently overlooks the various psychological aspects of this condition which are often interconnected with internalized diet culture, and a restrictive mindset about food. For the remainder of this piece, we will therefore be putting "overeating" in quotations to recognize that the diagnosis itself pathologizes behavior that is potentially hardwired and adaptive to a restrictive mindset.

Disclaimer about weight loss drugs: Within does not endorse the use of any weight loss drug or behavior and seeks to provide education on the insidious nature of diet culture. We understand the complex nature of disordered eating and eating disorders and strongly encourage anyone engaging in these behaviors to reach out for help as soon as possible. No statement should be taken as healthcare advice. All healthcare decisions should be made with your individual healthcare provider.

Resources

  1. What are eating disorders? (2023, January 18). National Eating Disorders Association. Accessed November 2023.
  2. Toman, I., Rye, P., Desy, J., & Ma, I. W. Y. (2018a). Point-of-care ultrasound for the assessment of digital clubbing. The American Journal of Medicine, 131(11).
  3. Bulimia nervosa. (2023, January 31). Johns-Hopkins Medicine. Accessed November 2023.
  4. Bulimia nervosa. (2018, May 10). Mayo Clinic. Accessed November 2023.
  5. Rienecke, R. (2017). Family-based treatment of eating disorders in adolescents: Current insights. Adolescent Health, Medicine and Therapeutics, 8, 69–79.
  6. Linardon, J., & Fairburn, C. G. (2020). Treatments for eating disorders: A systematic review and meta-analysis. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 53(11), 1764-1785.
  7. Brown, T. A., Cusack, A., Anderson, L. K., Trim, J. M., Nakamura, T., Trunko, M. E., & Kaye, W. H. (2021). A randomized trial of family-based treatment programs for adolescent anorexia nervosa: The importance of living arrangements. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 54(3), 414-423.
  8. Raykos, B. C., Erceg-Hurn, D. M., Hill, J., Campbell, B. N. C., & McEvoy, P. M. (2021). Positive outcomes from integrating telehealth into routine clinical practice for eating disorders during COVID-19. The International Journal of Eating Disorders, 54(9), 1689–1695.
  9. Chen, E. Y., Weissman, J. A., Zeffiro, T. A., & Yiu, A. (2021). Virtual family-based treatment for adolescent anorexia nervosa: A randomized controlled trial. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 54(7), 1091-1102.
  10. What is Telemental Health? (n.d.). National Institute of Mental Health. November 2023.
  11. Pandemic Experience Shows Benefits of Telepsychiatry in Increasing Access to Care. (2021, April 21). American Psychiatric Association. Accessed November 2023. 
  12. How well is telepsychology working? (n.d.). American Psychological Association. Accessed November 2023.
  13. Frayn, M., Fojtu, C. & Juarascio, A. (2021). COVID-19 and binge eating: Patient perceptions of eating disorder symptoms, tele-therapy, and treatment implications. Current Psychology, 40, 6249–6258.
  14. Mehler, P. (2022, August 3). Anorexia nervosa in adults: Evaluation for medical complications and criteria for hospitalization to manage these complications. UpToDate. Accessed November 2023.
  15. Yager, J. (2022, October 26). Eating disorders: Overview of prevention and treatment. UpToDate. November 2023.

FAQs

How do you recover from an eating disorder at home?

How to treat an eating disorder at home can vary. Many different online support groups, therapy programs, and other treatment options are available, as well as older models for self-help, such as workbooks.

At Within, we offer a virtual care program for eating disorders that is as effective as in-person care. In the intensive outpatient program, our team will support you through treatment and recovery from eating disorders.

Can eating disorders be treated from home?

Yes, but in most cases, it's essential to work with the guidance of mental health experts, such as the comprehensive team provided by groups like Within Health. Otherwise, current literature does not support basic online counseling for eating disorders.

Where can I find remote care for an eating disorder?

This can be tricky because some companies simply offer basic counseling or weight-loss programs, which do not effectively help those suffering from eating disorders.

Check out a program thoroughly to see if they're appropriately licensed or credentialed to treat eating disorders—not just "cure" weight gain or weight loss.

At Within Health, we practice evidence-based care, providing treatment methods that have been thoroughly researched, tested, and peer-reviewed to offer our patients the highest quality of care. Our team will work with you every step of the way. Contact us today to learn more.

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