Treating Women with Eating Disorders
The treatment of women with eating disorders is usually dependent on the severity of their symptoms. Generally speaking, people with eating disorders deal with many emotional and mental challenges, which can make it difficult to address their problems directly. It should, therefore, never be assumed that the degree of weight loss is associated with the degree of suffering or medical risk.
The best treatment option available to women with eating disorders is seeking help from a team of qualified mental health professionals, and nutritionists who can help restore one's balance and incorporate healthy eating habits into their lives.
Some women may require the use of an antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication to help them alleviate some of their symptoms, or other psychotropic medications, based on the presence of an underlying co-occurring psychiatric condition.
Below are some of the eating disorder treatment modalities available to women, but it should be noted that most patients will receive aspects of many forms of these psychological treatments as part of their successful recovery.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT involves working with a therapist to identify the distorted thoughts and rigid thinking that lead to behaviors associated with women experiencing eating disorders. These thought patterns and behaviors are then considered together in therapy, with new, objective reality being supported to allow for the release of the negative self-talk and the resulting negative behaviors. CBT will also open the person impacted by eating disorders up to a broader world view and improved perspective on eating, health, and self.
Interpersonal therapy can help with the relationship between a person and their partner, family, and friends. This type of eating disorder therapy helps the individual deal with their more challenging relationships to establish healthy ones. Oftentimes an eating disorder thrives when the person impacted is more and more interpersonally isolated, and as the connection with the therapist deepens, the opportunity to gain trust, perspective, and healing unfolds.
Group therapy provides a structured environment where women can develop their ideas about eating disorder treatment and recovery through the help of other people in the same type of situation. Group therapy can be incredibly powerful as the members of the group face challenges collectively, allowing them to learn, share and become vulnerable through the group process.
Not only do the patients benefit from the actual concepts they are learning in the group, but the collaboration, connection and shared meaning with other group members can have a profound and powerful healing impact. The opportunity to experience support and feedback from others with a shared experience can strike a patient in a way that has lasting meaning. Group therapy can even help open the person’s eyes to their own inner struggles and need for support, accountability, and a new pathway.
Nutritional therapy is necessary for anyone suffering from an eating disorder. It involves working with a nutritionist to identify underlying dietary issues and how food may play a part in a woman's overall physical and mental health. It is vital for the patient to understand how weight stigma and internalized negative messaging about fat interfere with truly healthy eating patterns. It is also critical to have direct support and monitoring to assure that appropriate nutritional needs are met.
Dietitians who specialize in eating disorders provide assistance both with working with the patient on the rigid belief systems with food, while also getting into very specific meal planning and monitoring during the more acute phases of eating disorders.