Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder are serious and complex conditions that have the potential to inflict significant physical and psychological harm. Characterized by abnormal beliefs and behaviors regarding weight and the consumption and retention of food, eating disorders can impact virtually all areas of a person’s life. Eating disorders most commonly affect teenage girls and young adult women, but older women, adolescent boys, and men of all ages can and do suffer from these debilitating conditions. Regardless of a person’s age or gender, developing an eating disorder can be a life-threatening experience that typically requires intensive professional treatment to overcome.
Experts estimate that eating disorders impact about 8 million Americans, or about 3% of the United States population. Included in this number are an estimated 500,000 adolescents. Eating disorders are among the most lethal mental health disorders. For example, experts estimate that the mortality rate of anorexia nervosa may be as high as 10%, which means that one of every ten people who develop anorexia may die as a direct result of the disorder. Individuals who struggle with bulimia nervosa are also at a significantly increased risk of death due to their eating disorder.
At Acadia Healthcare, we are familiar with the dramatic impact that eating disorders can have on individuals, and how difficult these disorders can be to overcome. At the programs within the Acadia treatment network that provide care for individuals with eating disorders, supremely talented and dedicated professionals work diligently to provide comprehensive programming that is designed to empower adolescents, men, and women to overcome the compulsion to engage in disordered eating behaviors, to achieve long-term recovery, and to learn how to live healthier, more productive, and more satisfying lives.
Why Consider Treatment for an Eating Disorder
As noted above, eating disorders are life-threatening conditions. However, surviving an eating disorder does not mean that an individual will emerge unscathed from the experience. Individuals whose lives are not ended by their eating disorder may experience a variety of devastating and potentially irreversible effects. For example, individuals who engage in the highly restrictive dieting and self-starvation that is characteristic of anorexia nervosa deprive their bodies of essential nutrients, and may as a result suffer from heart problems, osteoporosis, kidney failure, muscle weakness, and other physical effects. The purging behaviors that are associated with bulimia nervosa can lead to electrolyte imbalances, gastric rupture, esophageal damage, and pancreatitis. And the binging that is associated with both bulimia and binge eating disorder can lead to hypertension, heart problems, type 2 diabetes, and diseases of the gallbladder.
The psychological and social impact of eating disorders can be equally as devastating as the physical ramifications. People who struggle with eating disorders are at an increased risk for experiencing body image problems, diminished self-esteem, bipolar disorder, depressive disorders, and anxiety disorders. They are also at a significantly increased risk for suicide. Compounding the danger is that the secrecy and deception that many people engage in to hide their disordered eating can lead to withdrawal, isolation, and the diminishment of their personal support network at a time when such support can literally be life-saving.
Several programs within the Acadia Healthcare network have helped many adolescents and adults to escape the despair and devastation of eating disorders. At Acadia’s eating disorder treatment programs, individuals receive world-class care featuring comprehensive clinical and therapeutic services that are provided with unparalleled personalization and that are delivered with the utmost respect and dignity. When an individual enters an Acadia program for the treatment of an eating disorder, he or she will work in close collaboration with dedicated professionals to complete a customized course of treatment that is designed according to his or her unique strengths, needs, and treatment objectives.
Levels of Care Offered Through Acadia Healthcare
Adolescents and adults who heal from an eating disorder at a program within the Acadia Healthcare network may benefit from receiving treatment services at several levels. Depending upon the results of a thorough assessment, an individual’s personalized care at an Acadia program may include the following elements:
Detoxification services: Some individuals who have an eating disorder also struggle with substance abuse and addiction. In order to be able to fully engage in therapy for their eating disorders, these individuals must rid their bodies of the substance or substances that they have been abusing. Medically monitored detox provides a safe and closely supervised environment in which men and women can withdraw from alcohol or other drugs with minimal distress and without jeopardizing their health.
Inpatient treatment: Inpatient treatment, which is the most intensive level of care at Acadia programs, is typically a short-term experience for individuals who are in need of psychiatric stabilization. Featuring around-the-clock care, typically with strong medical and psychiatric components, inpatient treatment is designed to stabilize the individual so that he or she can benefit from more extensive care at a less intensive level.
Residential treatment: At Acadia programs that provide care for individuals who are struggling with eating disorders, residential care is the primary treatment environment. Residential care for an eating disorder typically involves multiple therapeutic activities such as individual, group, family, and experiential therapies. Though not as intensive as inpatient care, residential treatment provides around-the-clock supervision as well as a structured and supportive environment in which individuals can make therapeutic progress and practice their newfound skills.
Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP): When an individual has completed residential treatment for an eating disorder at an Acadia program, he or she can often transition directly to PHP. Treatment at the PHP level is structured yet less intensive than a residential or inpatient program. PHP usually includes individual and group therapy, with family therapy, experiential therapy, and related support services often incorporated. One of the main objectives of treatment at the PHP level is to support the individual as he or she begins to transition out of care and into a more independent living environment.
Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP): Following completion of PHP, the next step in eating disorder treatment at many Acadia centers is participation in IOP. At the IOP level, participants typically have fewer structured treatment hours than in PHP, and are encouraged to practice their newfound skills in real-world environments. Depending upon an individual’s treatment progress and level of success in early recovery, he or she may return to school or begin to work while receiving IOP services. Group therapy is usually the main method of treatment in IOP, though individual, family, and experiential activities may also take place.
Traditional outpatient services: Many Acadia programs also provide various traditional outpatient services, including individual therapy, group therapy, family therapy and education, discharge/aftercare planning, and related services to individuals who have completed more intensive treatment for an eating disorder.
To learn more about eating disorder treatment within the Acadia Healthcare network, or to get answers to any specific questions that you may have about eating disorder services at any specific center, please feel free to contact us at your convenience. We look forward to providing you with the information you need to make the best decisions for yourself or for a loved one.