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Treating Eating Disorders with Co-Occurring Conditions

By: Rachael On: 12-12-2013 Category: Behavioral Health

Having an eating disorder, suffering from alcohol or drug addiction while living with a mental illness are all difficult conditions with long recovery processes that can be full of struggle and the very real possibility of relapse.

However, when you have more than one of them, also known as a complex eating disorder, it makes the recovery process even more complex. If all the issues are not adequately handled, then the chances of relapse are extremely high.

Although complex eating disorder treatment is gaining popularity, it is still lacking in many eating disorder treatment centers, leading to unnecessary relapses for patients instead of helping them come to terms with their problems.

Eating Disorders

At its most basic level, an eating disorder is a condition where someone has a distorted relationship with food. An eating disorder may lead to excessively reducing the amount of food one eats or excessively overeating.

The two most well-known eating disorders are anorexia and bulimia. However, compulsive overeating, binge eating, and orthorexia are also common eating disorders. These disorders often stem from underlying issues such as a harmful self-image, an unhealthy fixation with food, wanting to control something and using food or weight, and relying on food to treat destructive emotions.

Co-Occuring Conditions

Eating disorders and drug or alcohol abuse often occur at the same time, and many eating disorders stem from an underlying psychological condition. Several studies have demonstrated a strong correlation between substance abuse and eating disorders, as well as underlying mental issues.

For example, in a small study of around 400 participants with binge eating disorder, around 73.8 percent had at least one other psychological disorder. About a quarter also struggled with substance abuse. Additionally, many experts estimate that about half of those entering treatment centers with an eating disorder also abuse substances like drugs and alcohol.

Addiction And Eating Disorders

The scientific community has not yet discovered the exact reason why the two are so prevalent together; however, they do have some hypotheses. There is more and more research showing a common genetic link between eating disorders and addiction, which might provide one reason.

Additionally, it could be that the person suffers from a mental disorder like anxiety or depression and succumbs to an eating disorder and/or substance abuse as a result. Furthermore, many people suffering from eating disorders turn to drugs and alcohol to help them manage their hunger and weight. Likewise, many suffering from addiction also find themselves binge eating or otherwise having an unhealthy relationship with food.

The Data

According to data from the National Treatment Center Study, only 16 percent of publicly funded centers offered treatment for eating disorders with co-occurring conditions, and only half actually screened for eating disorders upon arrival for substance abuse problems. Only 14 percent of the screeners used a standard tool, and only 3 percent would refer the eating disorder patients elsewhere.

Sovereign Health is not a publicly funded treatment center, but the data for this research demonstrates the overall lack of treatment for those suffering from co-occurring conditions and eating disorders. Similar statistics exist for facilities specializing in eating disorder treatment; they often do not screen for substance abuse, nor do they treat the co-occurring condition. Therefore, many patients who do enter facilities for treatment do not get the care they really need.

Proper Screening

Facilities need to properly screen for co-occurring conditions. Additionally, people who exhibit such conditions must find a treatment center that will treat all their issues. The best type of therapy for an eating disorder with a co-occurring condition combines many factors to treat each and every issue a person may have.

Through focusing on why a person has an eating disorder, the individual can better overcome the disorder. They will handle the underlying causes that prompt the condition, making a relapse a much lower possibility. That is why at Sovereign Health Group, we not only treat eating disorders, but we also treat any co-occurring condition, whether it is a mental condition, drug or alcohol addiction, or a combination.

What We At Sovereign Health Offer

At Sovereign Health, our programs are run by professional staff members well versed in complex eating disorders. They work hard to correctly diagnose and find the best treatment, which is uniquely designed to the patient. Patients undergo both group sessions and private counseling to work on their various issues.

Furthermore, we offer nutritional education, yoga, meditation, exercise, walks on the beach, art therapy, music therapy, and equine therapy on top of standard psychotherapy to provide holistic help to patients. Each meal for those with eating disorders is carefully created by a registered dietitian, individually created for the patient.

Through these diverse programs, a patient has plenty of support for healing not just the eating disorder but also any mental issues underlying the eating disorder and any substance abuse problems. Additionally, an individual will finally find a way to reconcile a nourishing relationship with food, including how to handle emotions and weight in a healthy manner.

Unlike single treatment facilities, programs like that at Sovereign Health combine state of the art eating disorder treatment and techniques for treating co-occurring conditions to really help patients finally overcome their problems and take control over their lives.

Blog post by: Marissa Maldonado

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