How We Conceptualize Eating Disorders

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In society, there are a lot of misconceptions about what eating disorders are – certainly the media portrays a simplistic view of the illness, often focusing on vanity and body image as the main issues. We believe it is important to discuss how we conceptualize eating disorders and draw attention to the fact that these are serious illnesses requiring expert care by qualified professionals.

The primary thing that we think about when conceptualizing eating disorders is psychological pain and anxiety, while the secondary thing we think about is how it manifests. An eating disorder manifests in one’s relationship with food, body, and weight; however, an eating disorder can also be thought of as a search for wholeness and meaning, which includes the body, the brain, the spirit, and the soul – all aspects of the individual are affected.

Because eating disorders aren’t as simple as they are commonly perceived, a multidisciplinary team is needed to treat this disorder. You need a team of people coming from every discipline because the psychiatric and psychological aspects, physical concerns, internal and spiritual dimension, and systems such as family, community, and culture must all be addressed.

Most of our patients talk about a feeling they’ve had for a very long time, before the eating behavior started. A profound feeling of isolation, of not belonging, which often precedes negative eating behavior. We help our patients understand where those feelings are coming from and help them learn new coping skills so they can address the disorder that developed as a result and practice new ways of being in the world.

A large part of the program at Reasons is Exposure-Response Prevention and working directly with our patients on reducing anxiety around feared experiences, around food and other situations in life. When we design these challenges for people to address whatever the avoided or feared thing is, a big part of it is setting them up for success. A succession of successes will hopefully generate a sense of hope for the patient. We want them to experience a sense of confidence in their ability to go out into the world because they feel they have had some successful experiences with it here. That’s one of the special characteristics of our team: when a patient arrives, they are greeted with confidence and a belief that they can do everything we are asking them to do.

So, if you have a loved one who is displaying worrying behavior around food or body image or perhaps with isolating and disconnecting from others, what can you do? It’s a difficult situation to be in and can be hard to handle, which is why at Reasons, educating and supporting families is incredibly important to us. When patients come here, they are immersed in an environment where they are getting education and feedback all the time. This means it is equally as important to us to provide support and education to their outside support system.

If you would like to learn more about we can help you or a loved one experience healing from an eating disorder, you can find more information here or reach out to us at 1-800-235-5570 ext 290. We would love to make a difference in your life!