Therapist For An Eating Disorder

By Gabrielle Seunagal |Updated June 22, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Whitney White, MS. CMHC, NCC., LPC

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you may wonder whether or not seeing a therapist near you would be a good idea. Ultimately, seeing a therapist for eating disorders is a life choice which only you can make; however, being as informed as possible about what your options are and how a therapist and counseling can be of value for overcoming eating disorders is so critical.

 

There are a series of misconceptions which pertain to eating disorders, people who struggle with them, and strategies to treating eating disorders. One of the most common misconceptions is that eating disorders are about food, body image or health. In reality, eating disorders are not just about counting calories or body image issues; these may merely be symptoms for the real mental health issue which the person is struggling with. There are many reports of people struggling with eating disorders when they feel a lack of control in their lives, oftentimes due to a mental health condition like PTSD. Eating, or lack thereof (as with anorexia nervosa), is one of many things which the individual has control over.

The Dangers Of Eating Disorders

Virtually everyone has a general understanding of just how dangerous eating disorders, like  a binge eating disorder or bulimia nervosa, are for both physical and mental health. Comprehending the specific perils of these types of eating disorders and disordered eating habits can be helpful.

First and foremost, when the body is deprived of the proper nutrients and calories, such as is common with anorexia, it begins to use its tissue and muscles as fuel. An eating disorder like this will subsequently lead to fewer blood cells and physical symptoms like major drops in one's blood pressure and electrolyte imbalances. If this process lasts for too long, the person places themselves at a medical risk for heart failure, a fatal health issue, and other serious health complications that require round the clock medical monitoring.

The health dangers of eating disorders are not mutually exclusive to the cardiovascular system. The digestion system also takes some major hits when the body is suffering from eating disorders. Some examples of very serious health issues from an eating disorder include, but are certainly not limited to esophagus damage, constipation, bacterial infections, and swollen salivary glands.

 

Eating disorders also have a series of adverse health impacts on the mental and psychological health of the afflicted individual. Sleep apnea, fainting, dizziness, trouble with concentrating, and seizures are only the tip of the iceberg of mental health issues associated with eating disorders.

Eating disorders are nothing to mess around with. Their negative health effects can be deadly if medical treatment is withheld or delayed. It's true that seeking treatment from a mental health professional, doctor, registered dietitian, treatment team, or other professionals is up to you. However anyone who is dealing with an eating disorder (or has a family member or loved one dealing with such a health disorder) is strongly advised to seek the proper, professional assistance and medical help. It could quite literally save lives.

What To Expect From A Therapist Working With You on Your Eating Disorder

When deciding whether to work with a therapist in counseling, either individually or as part of a treatment team, on your eating disorder or eating disorders, it's natural to have a lot of questions, and that's OK. First and foremost, you should know that the job of your therapist or eating disorder specialist is to help you and be of service to you in your recovery. There is no condescension or judgment from licensed therapists like you may feel from family members. Moving forward, your therapist will build a relationship with you and get to the root of the issues which are causing the eating disorder at hand. Solving these issues is the objective eating disorder therapy works to achieve.

 
Psychological Therapy and Treatment Procedures

Working with a therapist regarding eating disorders and your health will always involve some type of talk therapy. There are a variety of health benefits associated with this solution focused treatment; for starters, you will learn how to transform unhealthy habits into healthy habits, develop productive coping mechanisms, manage anxiety and depression, treat your whole person rather than just your disorder, and better your emotional health. While the benefits of therapy are well-documented, it's important to remember that eating disorder treatment and therapy involves a time commitment. Eating disorders and their underlying health issues don't materialize overnight and those health issues won't disappear that way either. With the help of your therapist and disorder treatment, you will be working towards personal growth, improving the health of the relationship you have with yourself, and feeling better on your healing journey.

Various Types of Psychological Treatment

There are many types of therapies which can be used to help people overcome eating disorders, improve their health, and achieve healing. Some therapies and types of disorder treatment will be more effective to treat certain patients while others may benefit from a totally different treatment plan. Nevertheless, having a basic idea of the existing options is helpful in easing apprehension and ridding yourself of uncertainty or anxiety about eating disorder treatment and meeting with a mental health professional.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Patients who undergo cognitive behavioral therapy with a mental health professional will be able to work with that specialist to grasp the emotions, belief systems, relationships, and actions which relate to their eating disorder. When an individual suffers from seemingly external health issues like eating disorders, it's almost always indicative of a health issue on the inside, like anxiety, depression or other mental health disorders. The symptoms of internal health issues tend to manifest on the outside until the root of the problem is dealt with.

Group Therapy

You are not alone in your struggle with an eating disorder. There are others who are battling eating disorders. Group therapy is another type of treatment used to treat eating disorders. During this therapy, you will work with a licensed therapist or mental health professional and a select group of others who have been dealing with eating disorders as well. There are a variety of benefits associated with group therapy with an eating disorder therapist which don't necessarily pertain to one on one sessions.

 

Working in group therapy can provide a sense of mental health support, allow you to process your emotions, and help you realize that there are other people out there in life who are just like you. Also, in group therapy, you have the opportunities of listening to others (rather than just yourself and a mental health professional) who are overcoming eating disorders, and you can learn various helpful coping mechanisms and positive mental health thought patterns from others. There are even specific group therapy options for specific types of eating disorders. For example, you could join a bulimia specific recovery group led by an experienced mental health professional. Another additional benefit of group therapy is the ability to inspire others in their own recovery. The participants in the group will be listening to you and your story. You never know whose life you could touch.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) centers learning new skills to regulate emotions. In these therapy sessions, you will work with a mental health professional, who may also be an eating disorder specialist, in accepting who you are while simultaneously embracing changes in your behavior. The mental health professionals and eating disorders therapists trained in DBT assign skills to work on as part of their treatment plan. This may include skills like practicing mindfulness. Most DBT sessions are not organized as one-on-one sessions with a mental health professional. Instead, you will likely meet for 24 weeks in a group setting, with a mental health professional and others working towards eating disorder recovery, just like you. Together with your group and eating disorder counselor you will learn techniques such as mindfulness, stress management, relationship building, and emotional regulation

Other Types of Therapy

These are just a few of the types of mental health therapies available for eating disorder recovery. Other options may include family based therapy, where you and your family members meet with a mental health professional, or Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), where an eating disorder specialist or mental health professional helps you find strategies to stay present in the moment.

In Closing

Seeing a mental health professional or therapist who works with eating disorders can be advantageous to your overall health. If your search for an “eating disorder therapist near me” is coming up pretty dry, keep in mind that therapy is even available online through BetterHelp. BetterHelp is where you can be matched with a therapist that has experience with the eating disorders and other health issues you're facing and is a licensed mental health professional. Working with a BetterHelp therapist means that you can message your therapist at any time and that you can schedule a phone, live chat, or video sessions with them to discuss your mental health - all from the comfort of your home.

 
 

Commonly Asked Questions On This Topic Found Below:

Who should I contact if I have an eating disorder?

What therapy helps with eating?

What are 3 examples of disordered eating behaviors?

What qualifies as eating disorder recovery?

What are the 7 examples of eating disorder patterns?

What is an Orthorexic?

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