Eating Disorder Therapy

Treatment for eating disorders involves much more than food. While medical intervention may be required in order to stabilize the condition of a person with a severe eating disorder, recovery is dependent upon that individual working through the issues that caused the eating disorder in the first place. Eating disorder therapy may help the person explore the reasons behind their behaviours, and facilitate the establishment of new and healthier eating patterns.

Sometimes, the whole family needs therapy in order to promote the best environment to support their loved-one in recovery. It is important to understand that the problem is not simple to resolve. Often, the relationship is damaged between the person with the eating disorder and other family members, who may find the eating disorder frustrating, stressful, and difficult to understand. It is counterproductive for others to demand that a person with an eating disorder stop purging or starving themselves. Unfortunately, in an effort to “fix” the problem, some family members may become intrusive and controlling, causing the person with the eating disorder to distance themselves.

Therapy can offer a person with anorexia or bulimia the opportunity to examine their own relationship with food in a supportive setting. Psychological factors such as depression, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder, as well as interpersonal difficulties or abuse can all contribute to the development of an eating disorder.

Some individuals with bulimia or anorexia use food to avoid having to face problems, or cope with overwhelming feelings. Others find themselves controlling their food intake and/or weight in an effort to re-gain some power or control in their lives.

There are many ways that eating disorder therapy can benefit a person in recovery. Talking with a therapist can help a person re-establish positive self-esteem and empowerment. Most importantly, a therapist can assist a person with an eating disorder to develop specific strategies to cope with their feelings and overcome negative thoughts.

Photo: Dan Colcer.

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