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Eating disorders are serious illnesses

What is an eating disorder?

Eating disorders are real, complex illnesses that can cause severe harm. Like schizophrenia or diabetes, eating disorders are not a choice, fad, or phase. Eating disorders are also more prevalent than many people realize, and they rarely resolve on their own. Fortunately, they are highly treatable. The Emily Program provides personalized eating disorder treatment plans that help each person on the path to recovery.

Wondering if you or someone you care about might be struggling with an eating disorder? 

Take just a few minutes to complete our free eating disorder self-assessment. This quick and easy eating disorder quiz is designed to help identify any worrisome signs and empower you to make informed decisions about seeking professional support for all types of eating disorders.

The Emily Program offers proven and personalized treatment for all types of eating disorders.  Contact us at 1-888-364-5977 to begin the process, starting with a complete eating disorder assessment to understand your unique needs. Then, we’ll create an eating disorder treatment plan for your path to recovery. No matter your age. No matter your gender. We’re here to help.

Types of Eating Disorders

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is characterized by restrictive eating patterns and significant weight loss. This restriction often stems from an intense fear of gaining weight, even when underweight. People with anorexia also commonly experience a distorted body image, where they see themselves as larger than they actually are.

Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)

Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) is characterized by a persistent aversion to food. This aversion can manifest in several ways, including fear of food itself, a lack of interest in eating, or a strong avoidance of certain foods due to sensory sensitivities, anxieties about choking, or past negative experiences. ARFID leads to inadequate nutritional intake and can significantly impact growth and development.

Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating disorder (BED) is marked by repeated “binges” – episodes where individuals consume a large amount of food in a short time. Binges involve a feeling of losing control and being unable to stop eating, even when feeling uncomfortably full. Unlike bulimia nervosa, binges in BED are not followed by purging behaviors. However, people with BED may restrict their food intake after a binge, creating a cycle of restriction and bingeing.

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa is characterized by recurrent cycles of binge eating and purging behaviors, including self-induced vomiting, misuse of laxatives or diuretics, or excessive exercise. Like anorexia, bulimia involves a preoccupation with weight and body shape, and the cycle of bingeing and purging can lead to feelings of shame, guilt, and anxiety.

Compulsive Overeating

Compulsive overeating involves episodes of excessive, uncontrolled eating, usually causing physical discomfort. The behavior is often used as a coping mechanism for emotional distress such as anxiety or stress, but often results in feelings of guilt, shame, and a sense of loss of control. 

Eating Disorder/Substance Use Disorder

Eating disorders frequently co-occur with substance use (alcohol and drugs), each potentially worsening the other. Untreated, these interrelated conditions can lead to significant, long-term health problems and hinder full recovery from either condition.

Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorders (OSFED)

OSFED is a category of eating disorder diagnoses that cause significant distress and impairment but don’t exactly match the criteria for any other specific eating disorder.

Related Mental Health Issues

Eating disorders often present with other conditions, including anxiety, depression, and trauma. Effective treatment treats these dual diagnoses with comprehensive care.

What Causes Eating Disorders?

Eating disorders stem from a complex mix of factors, including biological predispositions, psychological traits, and social, cultural, and environmental pressures. No single cause is to blame, and understanding this intricate web is vital for effective treatment.

Biological and Genetic Causes of Eating Disorders

Genetics plays a significant role in the risk of developing an eating disorder. Those with a family history of such conditions are more susceptible, indicating a hereditary factor. Genes may also influence the levels of certain brain chemicals, like serotonin and dopamine, which play a role in mood, appetite, and reward. Imbalanced levels of these chemicals could contribute to disordered eating behaviors. 

Social and Environmental Causes of Eating Disorders

Societal pressures to achieve an unrealistic thin ideal, constantly reinforced by media portrayals and social media, significantly impact body image and can fuel unhealthy weight loss attempts. This relentless pursuit of thinness can be a major trigger for eating disorders. Environmental factors like trauma, high-stress settings, and overly competitive environments can further complicate matters by placing undue emphasis on appearance or performance.

Psychological Causes of Eating Disorders

People struggling with perfectionism, low self-esteem, or anxiety may be especially vulnerable to eating disorders. For them, disordered eating can become a coping mechanism, a way to manage difficult emotions or feel a sense of control in a world that feels overwhelming. By restricting food intake, purging after meals, or exercising excessively, they may feel they’re exerting control over their bodies and, by extension, their lives. However, this unhealthy behavior comes at a devastating cost to physical and mental well-being.

It’s crucial to remember that eating disorders are not a lifestyle choice. People with these complex illnesses don’t simply decide to develop them. Recognizing this interplay of biological, social, and psychological factors underlying eating disorders allows us to combat the stigma surrounding them, create supportive environments for recovery, and develop more comprehensive treatment approaches.

Signs of an Eating Disorder

Recognizing the signs of eating disorders is important for early detection and intervention, which can significantly improve recovery outcomes. These signs vary widely among individuals and the types of eating disorders but often include:

  • Preoccupation with weight and body shape
  • Unusual eating habits, including skipping meals, restrictive eating, or eating secretly
  • Withdrawal from social activities, especially those involving food, and a sudden increase in physical activity or exercise
  • Increased sensitivity, anxiety, or depression related to eating or body image, along with mood swings and irritability
  • Noticeable fluctuations in weight, gastrointestinal complaints, changes in menstruation for menstruating individuals, or signs of malnutrition such as hair loss, dental issues, and dry skin

Early recognition of these signs and other eating disorder symptoms in oneself or others is essential. If you or someone you know is displaying signs of an eating disorder, seeking professional help is a critical step towards healing and recovery.

Eating Disorder Treatment

There are a number of eating disorder treatment options available, each tailored to individuals of all ages and genders, ensuring a personalized approach to recovery:

  • Residential Treatment: Provides immersive, 24/7 care in a structured environment for individuals requiring intensive support and monitoring. This level of care is ideal for those needing a safe space to focus fully on their recovery journey.
  • Day Treatment: Includes both Partial Hospitalization Programs/Intensive Day Programs (PHP/IDP) and Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP), offering a balance between intensive care and the flexibility of traditional outpatient care. PHP provides all-day support, while IOP offers a structured treatment schedule for a minimum of 12 hours per week, catering to those stepping up or down from other levels of care or just beginning their treatment journey.
  • Outpatient Treatment: Designed for individuals who require less intensive support, outpatient treatment allows clients to maintain their daily responsibilities, such as work or school, while attending scheduled therapy sessions and check-ins.
  • Virtual Treatment: Offers remote access to therapy and support, making treatment accessible for those who cannot attend in-person due to geographical, health, or scheduling constraints. Virtual treatment ensures continuity of care and support, leveraging technology to bridge the gap.
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Start the Journey to Recovery Today

If you or your loved one is struggling with food, schedule an eating disorder assessment today or contact us now at 1-888-364-5977 to receive more information. Let’s start the journey to recovery together.

Get help. Find hope.