Eating disorders are serious mental and physical health disorders that will affect 30 million Americans at some point in their lifetime. Statistics show that one person dies nearly every hour as a direct result of an eating disorder. These are scary numbers, and if you or someone you love suffers from an eating disorder, they hit even closer to home. The good news is that eating disorders are treatable, and recovery is possible. 


How to Get Help for an Eating Disorder


Eating disorders are characterized by abnormal or disturbed eating habits and often involve excessive preoccupation with food and body image. Some people who suffer from eating disorders are unaware that they do. Others know they have a problem, even if they hide it from those around them. Getting help for an eating disorder starts with recognizing that help is needed. So if you’ve landed here, you’re already one step closer to getting the help you need. Here are the next three steps:


#1. Talk to someone

One of the hardest and most important steps in seeking help for an eating disorder is to reach out to another person and tell them about your experience. Many people find it difficult to share their concerns with someone else because they feel ashamed or embarrassed about their difficulties with food and eating. When thinking about who to open up to, it’s important to choose someone you trust to listen with compassion. For some people, immediate family members are a great source of empathy and unconditional love. For others, friends or professional help may feel like a safer option. 


Opening up to another person about an eating disorder can be a daunting prospect.  If you have some idea of what kind of outcome you’re hoping for, you can work backwards from there to consider a) what you want to say, and b) whether the person you’ve chosen to speak to is equipped to provide that outcome. For example, if what you need is for someone to advise you definitively on next steps, you may want to talk to a professional who specializes in eating behaviors.  On the other hand, if you are looking for emotional support while you explore next steps, talking to a friend or family member might be a good place to start. 


#2. Research your treatment options

Eating disorder treatment varies widely, depending on the type of eating disorder you suffer from, how long you’ve struggled with it, whether you have other co-occurring disorders, and many other factors. If you’re working with a therapist, dietician, or other professional who is familiar with eating disorder treatment, they’ll be able to help you find the treatment options for your particular condition.  If you’re researching on your own, there are several resources you turn to for guidance and direction. Organizations like the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), and The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness offer help lines, resource links, and educational information that is helpful for individuals who suffer from eating disorders and their families. 


Eating disorders treatment can vary in levels of care as well, from weekly office visits with a psychotherapist to inpatient treatment, depending on the needs of the individual. Most treatment for eating disorders involves a combination of psychotherapies, which may include cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), family therapy, psychodynamic therapy, or others. 


#3. Commit to a plan of action

Your plan of action does not have to be complicated.  It can be as simple as:

  • Call three providers
  • Make an appointment with one of them
  • Go to the first appointment


Or maybe: 

  • Talk to Mom about my concerns
  • Ask her to help me find a support group
  • Ask her to come with me to my first meeting


Committing to a simple plan of action is sometimes the best way to start on the journey to a healthier you. Recovery from an eating disorder may take time, but with help and personal commitment, it is possible to overcome the challenges associated with eating disorders and establish a healthy relationship with food. 


Let us help get you on the path to a healthier you

At Pacific Health Systems, we’re dedicated to helping our patients optimize their physical, mental, and emotional health so they can get the most out of their lives and relationships. If you or someone you love is suffering from an eating disorder, we can help. Please give us a call to schedule a consultation today.