More than 30 million people in the United States suffer from an eating disorder in their lifetime.
Only about a third of people receive treatment.
At least one person dies as a direct result of an eating disorder every 62 minutes.
These statistics are chilling… and true. Eating disorders do not discriminate. They impact people of all genders, races, demographics, shapes and sizes. They are wide-reaching and, in many cases, deadly.
Despite how wide-spread and vicious eating disorders can be, they are significantly under-treated. Furthermore, those who do seek treatment often seek it later than they should. What gives? When is the right time to seek help?
The short answer is: the time is now. Early intervention offers a wealth of benefits to those suffering from an eating disorder. And, given the high mortality rate of these illnesses, waiting for treatment can have dire consequence.
That said, patients, loved ones and professionals often experience barriers toward early intervention and treatment. Let’s break down some of those barriers.
- Delayed diagnosis. More than half of all eating disorders go undetected. Eating disorders are often characterized by their secrecy, and those suffering from an eating disorder may go to great lengths to disguise disordered behaviors. Stereotypes also impact the ability to see an eating disorder for what it is: an often-invisible illness that can impact all genders, all body weights, all races, all economic backgrounds. As a result of these factors, eating disorders can lurk under the surface and remain undetected for quite some time. Keep your eyes and ears open for symptoms. You can find a list of key signs related to common eating disorders here.
- Misunderstanding of severity. Those with an eating disorder, their loved ones, and even some clinical professionals may misunderstand the severity of an eating disorder. Many factors can contribute to this lack of understanding: lack of awareness and education, denial, fear, feeling overwhelmed, shame, miscommunication… the list goes on and on. Even with the best of intentions, many of us can misread the severity of a situation. Err on the side of caution. Seek professional help or even a second professional opinion if need be.
- Insurance hurdles. Sadly, lack of adequate insurance coverage can deter patients and loved ones from pursuing treatment. Keep in mind that many treatment centers have vast experience working with insurance providers to secure greater coverage, and some providers have unique relationships with insurers to help cover a greater cost of care. Before you or your loved one discounts the possibility of treatment based on cost of care, seek input from an Admissions specialist who can guide you through the process.
- Ambivalence toward treatment. Eating disorders can hold a firm grip on their sufferers, impacting their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. Sometimes, people who suffer from an eating disorder do not initially want to get better, or just cannot imagine a life without their illness. If you or a loved one are experiencing the signs and symptoms of an eating disorder, reach out to a professional to learn more about how to respond to these challenging emotions.
At first glance, these barriers might feel insurmountable. But, these barriers are trifles when compared to the benefits of early intervention and treatment. Here are just a few of the reasons why early intervention and treatment are so important:
- Early intervention can increase the speed of recovery. Many of us are set in our ways in life. Generally speaking, the longer we’ve been doing things one way, the harder it becomes to try a new way. This same logic applies with eating disorder recovery as well. Those who have struggled with an eating disorder for a long time may be far more resistant to change than those who are earlier in their struggle with this illness.
- Early intervention can reduce symptoms after treatment. Even when treatment is successful, some people experience continued symptoms of their eating disorder. While a person might be on the road to recovery, continued symptoms and disordered behaviors and thoughts can be disheartening. Early intervention can reduce the appearance of these symptoms after treatment.
- Early intervention can increase the likelihood of sustaining recovery. Recovery does not end when you leave the treatment environment. Recovery can be a continuous effort, requiring dedication, mindfulness and a strong support system (among many other things). Because the road to recovery can be winding and long, sustaining recovery can be challenging after treatment. However, early intervention increases the likelihood of sustaining recovery after treatment.
- Delayed treatment increases risk. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, and eating disorders tend to progress in their severity the longer they are left untreated. Because of this, early treatment can ward off increasingly serious and severe physical and psychological consequences of an eating disorder. Furthermore, early detection and intervention may help avoid the need for more intensive levels of care.
If you, a loved one, or your patient are questioning whether or not to pursue treatment, don’t hesitate. Take the first step by getting a no-cost clinical assessment to better understand the severity of the eating disorder. From there, you’ll be better equipped to determine if treatment is the right next step. Wherever you are in your consideration process, know that you do not have to do it alone. Reach out to our Admissions team at 844-573-2766 so we can help guide you along your way.