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How To Get Help For An Eating Disorder

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Admission To A Hospital Or Clinic

Getting help for an Eating Disorder

You may need to go into a hospital or clinic because of your eating problem. This might be necessary if:

  • your doctor or care team feel you are very unwell or underweight
  • other kinds of treatment havenât worked
  • your home environment is making it hard for you to stay well.

How long do I have to stay?

If you’re an outpatient or day patient, you will go home most evenings and weekends. If you’re an inpatient, you will stay in the hospital or clinic for most of your treatment.

How long you are admitted for will depend on how much help you need to recover.

What support and treatment can I get?

You’ll normally receive a range of support as an inpatient. The staff at the hospital or clinic could include:

  • doctors

“With the daily routine, support system, classes and therapy I was able to start to rationalise anorexiaâs thoughts and slowly become stronger.”

What is refeeding?

Refeeding means being given food in order to bring your weight up to a healthy level.

It involves helping you to gain weight so that your energy levels and physical health improve. You may be given certain foods for their nutritional value. Or foods that are particularly good at helping people gain weight.

Refeeding varies from one clinic to another. Some doctors may do this over a period of time, allowing you to gradually increase your weight. Others will want to help you back to a healthy weight as soon as possible.

What if I don’t live near a clinic?

Could I be forced to go to hospital?

What Are The Warning Signs Of An Eating Disorder

If they are not recognized and addressed, eating disorder behaviours can result in serious physical and emotional problems.

Here are some signs that your teen may be struggling with an eating disorder and needs immediate help:

  • irritability, depression and social withdrawal.
  • excessive preoccupation with calories, food or “healthy eating”.
  • frequent negative comments about their weight and shape.
  • restriction of food intake.
  • making excuses to avoid eating.
  • significant weight loss or weight gain .
  • compulsive exercising.
  • frequently eating excessive amounts of food in a short period of time.
  • consuming food alone, at night or secretly.
  • using laxatives or diet pills.
  • going to the bathroom immediately after eating.

Warning Signs Of An Eating Disorder

Many people worry about their weight, what they eat, and how they look. This is especially true for teenagers and young adults, who face extra pressure to fit in and look attractive at a time when their bodies are changing. As a result, it can be challenging to tell the difference between an eating disorder and normal self-consciousness, weight concerns, or dieting. Further complicating matters, people with an eating disorder will often go to great lengths to hide the problem. However, there are warning signs you can watch for. And as eating disorders progress, the red flags become easier to spot.

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Medication For Eating Problems

There are no specific drugs to treat eating disorders. However, you may be offered medication for underlying factors such as depression or anxiety. For example, you may be offered an antidepressant to help manage these feelings.

You should be offered medication alongside talking treatments. Medication shouldn’t be the only thing you’re offered. Your doctor will decide whether to offer you medication â you can decide whether you want to take it.

If your eating problem means you’re underweight, drugs are absorbed more quickly into your bloodstream. This could make any medication more harmful, or not as effective, as it should be.

See our pages on antidepressants, antipsychotics and psychiatric medication for more about these drugs.

How To Get Help For An Eating Disorder

How to get help for an eating disorder

Eating disorders are serious mental health conditions that can be life-threatening if left untreated. In fact, they have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders . Getting help for an eating disorder is therefore critically important for anyone affected by the illness. It starts with knowing when to seek help, including the signs and symptoms to watch for

An eating disorder is a condition that is marked by an unhealthy relationship with food. The National Institute of Mental Health outlines three main types of eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder.

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Encourage Them To Seek Professional Help

Lastly, encourage your loved one to seek professional help. Offer to help them find a physician or therapist who can give them more guidance along their journey. Getting timely, effective treatment can dramatically increase a persons chance of recovery.

Dont forget to also take care of yourself during this time. Pay attention to your own needs, make time for relaxation and get your own support from a friend or therapist.

Can People Be Addicted To Food

In recent years, food addiction has become a popular idea among some scientists. Those researchers say that certain foods high in fat, sugar, and salt are addictive, causing changes in the brain similar to those made by drugs. Studies in animals have shown that rats that binge on sugar, for example, can develop signs of dependency.

But the idea of food addiction is controversial. For one thing, the standard treatment for addiction is abstinence, and thatâs not possible with food. Also, âdieting is a very strong component of the binge eating cycle,â May says. âFrom that standpoint, itâs counterproductive to label certain foods as negative.â

Thereâs no doubt that eating can stimulate the release of feel-good chemicals in the brain, Hudnall says. âBut that doesnât make food an addictive substance. Thereâs evidence that itâs actually the behavior — the restrict/binge cycle — that causes the signs of dependency, not the food itself,â she says. Some researchers have even stated that the term âeating addictionâ is a more accurate term than âfood addiction.â

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Addressing The Fears Of Being Diagnosed

While eating disorders are associated with serious short- and long-term complications, for many, the idea of being diagnosed and receiving an eating disorder treatment is more intimidating than the disorder itself. Common fears related to being diagnosed include:

  • Fear of gaining weight
  • Needing to buy bigger clothes
  • Fear of losing an important part of their identity
  • Losing the eating disorder as a coping mechanism

Many with eating disorders question whether theyre sick enough to receive treatment. They may compare themselves to others living with the disorder and determine that their condition isnt as advanced, making it difficult for them to know when to seek help for eating disorders.

For those facing these fears and roadblocks, its important to recognize that they deserve to receive the help and support they need to develop healthy eating habits for a healthy life. A physician or mental health professional who specializes in treating eating disorders can help patients identify their personal roadblocks to recovery and address their fears.

Tips To Improve Your Body Image

How to Get Help Online | Eating Disorders

Dress for yourself, not others. You should feel good in what you wear. Pick clothes that express your personality and make you feel comfortable and confident.

Stop comparing yourself to others. Even people without an eating disorder experience feelings of anxiety and inferiority when they compare themselves to others on social media. People exaggerate the positive aspects of their lives on Facebook, Instagram and the like, brushing over their flaws and the doubts and disappointments that we all experience. If necessary, take a break from social mediaand toss the fashion magazines. Even when you realize that the images are pure Photoshopped fantasy, they can still trigger feelings of insecurity. Stay away until youre confident they wont undermine your self-acceptance.

Pamper your body. Instead of treating your body like the enemy, look at it as something precious. Pamper yourself with a massage, manicure, facial, a candlelight bath, or a scented lotion or perfume that makes you happy.

Stay active. While its important not to overdo it with exercise, staying active is good for both your mental and physical well-being. The key is to differentiate between compulsive exercisewhich is rule-driven, weight-focused, and rigidand healthy exercise that is rule-free, fun, and flexible. Focus on activities you enjoy and do them because they improve your mood, not because they might change how you look. Outdoor activities can be especially good at boosting your sense of well-being.

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Talking Treatments For Eating Problems

Like some other mental health problems, you might be offered talking treatments for eating problems.

The following treatments are recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence . It produces guidelines on best practice in healthcare.

Read more about the NICE recommendations for treating eating problems.

Cognitive behavioural therapy for eating disorders

This form of CBT is specifically adapted to treat eating disorders. It may be offered for anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder.

  • For anorexia, you should be offered up to 40 sessions. You should have twice weekly sessions in the first two or three weeks.
  • For bulimia, you should be offered at least 20 sessions. You may be offered twice weekly sessions at first.
  • For binge eating disorder, you should be offered group CBT sessions at first. If you’d prefer individual therapy or find the sessions unhelpful, tell your therapist or doctor.

“Cognitive behavioural therapy really helped me to change the distorted thoughts flying around my head and move on from my eating disorder.”

Family therapy

Family therapy means working through issues with your family and the support of a therapist. It’s commonly offered to people with anorexia, especially younger people.

You might explore situations that could relate to underlying issues of your eating problem. It can help your family understand your eating problem and how to support you.

See our pages on talking treatments for more information.

Some options include:

Dont Underestimate Your Ability To Help

Many people with eating disorders report that it was only because of other people in their lives caring about them that they recovered. Keep this in mind when things seem hopelessyou can be enormously helpful to your friend or loved one.

Even if they are not engaging in treatment or seeming willing to accept help, reach out periodically to remind them you care about them and ask if theres anything you can do to support them. Offer hope and remind them that most people with eating disorders do recover.

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If You’re Family Get Involved In Treatment

Family treatment is a big part of help for younger sufferers in particular. A Stanford study showed that a family-based therapy plan was actually more effective in helping recovery in an eating disorder sufferer than individual treatment â so be enthusiastic about being involved. It may mean you examine your own attitudes to food, weight, and control pretty critically, so be prepared for uncomfortable revelations.

National Eating Disorder Hotlines

How to Help a Loved One with an Eating Disorder  National ...
  • Text NAMI to 741-741
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

    In the case of suicidal ideation, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours daily. The lifelines responders can provide valuable information on what to do in the case of suicidal ideation.

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    Reach Out For Support

    Once youve decided to make a change, opening up about the problem is an important step on the road to recovery. It can feel scary or embarrassing to seek help for an eating disorder, so its important to choose someone who will be supportive and truly listen without judging you or rejecting you. This could be a close friend or family member or a youth leader, teacher, or school counselor you trust. Or you may be more comfortable confiding in a therapist or doctor.

    Choose the right time and place. There are no hard and fast rules for telling someone about your eating disorder. But be mindful about choosing the right time and placeideally somewhere private where you wont be rushed or interrupted.

    Starting the conversation. This can be the hardest part. One way to start is by simply saying, Ive got something important to tell you. Its difficult for me to talk about this, so it would mean a lot if youd be patient and hear me out. From there, you may want to talk about when your eating disorder started, the feelings, thoughts, and behaviors involved, and how the disorder has impacted you.

    Be patient. Your friend or family member will have their own emotional reaction to learning about your eating disorder. They may feel shocked, helpless, confused, sad, or even angry. They may not know how to respond or help you. Give them time to digest what youre telling them. Its also important to educate them about your specific eating disorder.

    Eating disorder support groups

    Local Eating Disorder Hotlines

    If youre looking for a local eating disorder helpline, the following list contains resources for each state. While it is not a complete list, it can provide a starting point for finding treatment. Each state operates a 211 emergency and crisis information line that can be used to locate state resources. Below are designated crisis lines for each state run by The National Suicide Prevention LifeLine. The LifeLine and its state affiliates accept calls for all types of crises including concerns about eating disorders. These crisis centers assist individuals with mental health concerns and substance abuse issues.

    • Browse Local Hotlines By State


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    Dealing With Eating Disorders In The Home

    As a parent, there are many things you can do to support your childs eating disorder recoveryeven if they are still resisting treatment.

    Set a positive example. You have more influence than you think. Instead of dieting, eat nutritious, balanced meals. Be mindful about how you talk about your body and your eating. Avoid self-critical remarks or negative comments about others appearance. Instead, focus on the qualities on the inside that really make a person attractive.

    Make mealtimes fun. Try to eat together as a family as often as possible. Even if your child isnt willing to eat the food youve prepared, encourage them to join you at the table. Use this time together to enjoy each others company, rather than talking about problems. Meals are also a good opportunity to show your child that food is something to be enjoyed rather than feared.

    Avoid power struggles over food. Attempts to force your child to eat will only cause conflict and bad feelings and likely lead to more secrecy and lying. That doesnt mean you cant set limits or hold your child accountable for their behavior. But dont act like the food police, constantly monitoring your childs behavior.

    Do whatever you can to promote self-esteem. in your child in intellectual, athletic, and social endeavors. Give boys and girls the same opportunities and encouragement. A well-rounded sense of self and solid self-esteem are perhaps the best antidotes to disordered eating.

    National Eating Disorders Association Helpline: 1

    How To Get Help For An Eating Disorder

    This helpline offers support MondayThursday from 9 a.m.9 p.m. EST, and Friday from 9 a.m.5 p.m. EST. You can expect to receive support, information, referrals, and guidance about treatment options for either you or your loved one. You can also contact this helpline through its online chat function, available on its website. Additionally, there is an option to send a text message if you are in crisis by texting NEDA to 741741 a trained volunteer from the Crisis Text Line will get in touch with you.

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    Alternatives To Calling An Eating Disorder Hotline

    In addition to the traditional helpline where a person calls and speaks to someone, there are other options available for those who may not feel comfortable speaking on the phone, including eating disorder hotline text programs. These programs connect people with a text responder. In most cases, all that is needed to initiate a conversation with a text hotline is sending a specific word or words to a designated number.

    Another option for those who may not want to call and speak with someone over the phone is eating disorder hotline chat programs. These allow communication via instant messaging. Users will be able to chat with a trained support professional via their web browser to obtain answers to their questions and treatment referrals if desired.

    The following organizations provide reputable alternatives to calling an eating disorder hotline:

    Assemble Your Treatment Team

    Because eating disorders have serious emotional, medical, and nutritional consequences, its important to have a team of professionals that can address every aspect of your problem. As you search, focus on finding the right fitprofessionals who make you feel comfortable, accepted, and safe.

    To find an eating disorder treatment specialist in your area:

    • Ask your primary care doctor for a referral.
    • Check with your local hospitals or medical centers.
    • Ask your school counselor or nurse.

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    How To Get Diagnosed For Eating Disorders

    Eating disorders are diagnosed based on eating habits, signs, and symptoms. If a doctor suspects their patient has an eating disorder, they may perform an exam or request tests to confirm the diagnosis. To be diagnosed, someone may see either their primary healthcare provider or mental health professional.

    Assessments and tests typically include a physical exam and/or lab tests to rule out other medical causes for an eating issue, and a psychological evaluation, including self-evaluation questionnaires and additional tests to check for complications arising from the disorder.

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