Treatment for Eating Disorders

Eating disorders peak in adolescence and have the highest risk of death of all mental illness. 95 percent of people with eating disorders in America are between the ages of 12 and 25.[1] The behaviors commonly caused by eating disorders can limit an adolescent’s or young adult’s ability to get adequate nutrition which can destroy the digestive system, the heart, bones, mouth and teeth and can lead to additional mental health issues or other diseases unless treatment is accepted, and recovery is sustained.[2] These disorders lead to a severely impaired lifestyle and when they progress, can be life-threatening.

Eating disorders require treatment by medical specialists and experienced therapists. At Innercept Residential Mental Health Treatment we assess and treat young people with even the most complex, severe diagnoses. We offer the most comprehensive continuum of mental health treatment which incorporates behavioral, cognitive, social and spiritual aspects to help patients achieve sustainable long-term wellness from eating disorders.

Types of Eating Disorders

Eating disorders vary widely depending on the type each patient suffers from. These types include:

  • Anorexia Nervosa
  • Binge-Eating Disorder
  • Bulimia Nervosa
  • Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID)[3]
  • Rumination Disorder
  • Body Dysmorphic disorder (BDD)

Symptoms of Eating Disorders

Eating disorders have many symptoms which can overlap and may become life-threatening without treatment. Symptoms may include:

  • Decrease in body weight
  • Fear of gaining weight and preoccupation with this fear
  • Body Dysmorphia: Distorted perception of weight and/or shape
  • Denying or not recognizing they have an eating disorder
  • Attempting to control weight and shape
  • Feeling guilt or shame about eating
  • Social isolation from family and friends
  • Limiting calories and specific foods or food groups
  • Excessive Exercise
  • Vomiting after eating or using diuretics and laxatives
  • Frequent visits to the bathroom
  • Having repeated or frequent cosmetic procedures to correct a perceived flaw
  • Sleeping disorders
  • Strained relationships with parents
  • Anxiety, Depression and other Mood disorders
  • Anger management issues
  • Suicide

Additional physical symptoms of eating disorders may include:

  • Sore throat
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Dizziness, fainting, fatigue or difficulty concentrating
  • Muscle weakness and exhaustion
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Failure to thrive
  • Aspiration (inhalation of food into the airways)
  • Impaired immune function
  • Thinning of bones
  • Dry skin
  • Dry, brittle fingernails
  • Dry brittle or thinning hair
  • Electrolyte imbalance
  • Dehydration
  • Seizures
  • Pneumonia
  • Growth of fine hair all over the body
  • Dental problems, bleeding gums or erosion of tooth enamel
  • Abnormal lab results including anemia, low thyroid and hormone levels,
    reduced heart rate, low blood cell count and low potassium
  • Stomach cramps, indigestion or stomach ulcers
  • Multi-organ failure
  • Brain damage
  • Heartburn or sudden damage to the heart
  • Cardiac Arrest or sudden death

Anorexia Nervosa is a life-threatening disorder that can be fatal. In this disorder, young adults and adolescents avoid food, severely restrict  the type of food and eat small amounts of food. Those suffering from this illness have a distorted body image and low self-esteem. The two types of anorexia nervosa. Include a restrictive type and a binge-purge type.[4] Patients may also die from complications associated with starvation. Suicide is the second cause of death for those diagnosed with anorexia nervosa.[5]

Those suffering from a Binge-eating Disorder may intentionally eat too much food and feel a lack of control about their eating choices. Binge-eaters often eat their food more quickly than others. They eat when they aren’t hungry and continue to eat after they feel full. These patients have feelings of guilt and shame after consuming large amounts of food and they suffer from low self-esteem. Some binge-eaters try to compensate for their excessive consumption with excessive exercise. Their unhealthy behavior can include weekly episodes of bingeing.[6]

Bulimia Nervosa is a severe eating disorder which involves both bingeing and purging of food, often in secret. Bulimics suffer from body dysmorphia and this disorder can be fatal. Patients judge themselves severely and feel a lack of control about eating and food. They experience feelings of guilt, shame and intense fears of gaining weight. They also often use self-induced vomiting, laxatives and excessive exercise to limit caloric intake and weight gain [7]

Rumination Disorder includes regurgitating food after eating it. Regurgitated, undigested food is brought back up from the stomach and is often chewed again, re-swallowed or spit out. This behavior happens after each meal. Teens and young people with this disorder may suffer from malnutrition if they eat less calories when the food is spit out. [8]

Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID), formerly referred to as Selective Eating disorder, involves limits in the amount and type of food consumed by teens and young people but does not include body image dysmorphia or fear of weight gain. ARFID sometimes includes a lack of interest in eating or food avoidance. Teens and young adults with ARFID do not eat enough calories to grow or develop normally or maintain basic bodily functions. This disorder can cause extreme weight loss and/or failure to thrive as well as nutritional deficiencies.[9]

In addition to the symptoms of other eating disorders, ARFID sufferers often choose to dress in layers to hide weight loss, have constipation, abdominal pain, cold intolerance, or lethargy. They often restrict the amount of food eaten and limit their foods to include certain preferred textures. They tend to be picky eaters and restrict themselves to specific food choices. Young adults and teens with autism spectrum disorders are more likely to develop ARFID. Patients with this disorder can have a variety of diverse symptoms and be afraid to eat around others.[10]

Body Dysmorphic Disorder(BDD) is a mental health disorder many teens and young people suffer from which causes negative thoughts about perceived inadequacies in their own bodies and appearance. Symptoms include hiding parts of your body with clothing or makeup, constantly exercising or grooming, comparing one’s body to others, frequent cosmetic surgeries, social isolation, anxiety, depression, other mood disorders, and suicide.[11]

Comorbidities for eating disorders include Anxiety, Depression, Post-Traumatic Stress (PTSD), Obsessive Compulsive disorder (OCD), Social Anxiety disorder, Borderline personality disorder,  additional physical impairments and damage, causing self-harm and Suicide.[12]

Treatment for Eating Disorders at Innercept Residential Mental Health

When treating eating disorders, our team of experienced and compassionate therapists help our patients change their distorted and negative thinking patterns in order to help them achieve long-term recovery. We encourage and guide them to help break their unhealthy patterns of behavior and to make healthy choices instead, while leaving their bingeing and purging in the past.

At Innercept Residential Mental Health Treatment, we use an evidence-based model with a “soft-landing” environment to help our residents feel supported and soothe their distress during treatment. Our treatment for eating disorders includes both psychological therapy and nutritional counseling. Our professional and caring therapists use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) and also group, family and individual therapies to gain insight into each resident’s behavior patterns and triggers.

Family-based therapy is an effective treatment tool for adolescents with eating disorders because it offers additional support for the patient , caregiver and family during and after their time in treatment.[13] The goal at Innercept is to help residents develop strategies to alter their eating patterns, cease bingeing and purging, change their restrictive diets, return to a healthy weight and maintain positive behavioral changes while increasing self-esteem.

Under the guidance of our therapists, clinicians and registered dieticians, patients learn to live and to eat in a healthier way .Sometimes prescription medications or oral nutritional supplements may be needed to help treat these disorders. At Innercept, we are here each step of the way to offer support for residents who suffer from even the most extreme, severe cases and for those who previously failed at treatment elsewhere.

We also offer a stabilization program to patients who come from psychiatric hospital settings. This specific setting is a low-stimulus environment and is under the management of 24-hour care professionals. This program is at geographically distant location from our other Innercept programs and residents.

Our Ingage program at Innercept offers a supportive independent-living model where residents can flourish on their own, with support as needed and they eventually are prepared to transition back to healthy living with their families. This program also encourages the practice of relationship skills and self-esteem building as well as skills for daily living.

Therapists at Innercept Residential Mental Health Treatment guide and empower each individual so they can learn to cope with the stress in their lives, to take personal responsibility for their own recovery, and to improve their relationships . At Innercept, they learn to manage their emotions and establish healthy eating behaviors. We help our residents focus on healing and recovery so they can achieve their personal growth goals and fulfill their highest potential.


[1] https://www.hopkinsallchildrens.org/Services/Pediatric-and-Adolescent-Medicine/Adolescent-and-Young-Adult-Specialty-Clinic/Eating-Disorders/Eating-Disorder-Facts

[2] https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/eating-disorders/symptoms-causes/syc-20353603

[3] https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/by-eating-disorder/arfid

[4] https://nedc.com.au/eating-disorders/eating-disorders-explained/types/anorexia-nervosa/

[5] https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/eating-disorders

[6] https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/binge-eating-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20353627

[7] https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9795-bulimia-nervosa

[8] https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/eating-disorders/symptoms-causes/syc-20353603

[9] https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/by-eating-disorder/arfid

[10] https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/by-eating-disorder/arfid

[11] https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/body-dysmorphic-disorder

[12] https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9794-anorexia-nervosa

[13] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5459462/

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