Eating Disorder Treatment Schedule: Factors to Consider
As eating disorders are so complex determining a person's needs within an eating disorder treatment schedule will depend on several factors.
1. Physical – this is not always the top priority, but it is a major consideration. If a person's health is 'too far gone,' a lower level of care will not be effective. For example, when a person engages in behaviors that creates an imbalance in electrolytes (whether from purging or restricting), the mind is not able to function clearly. It is the same concept for someone who is sleep deprived. Asking a person who has been awake for 48 hours to think clearly will not work. A person's brain capacity is greatly diminished through eating disorders. Therefore, trying to make decisions, work with therapists, and refrain from engaging in disordered behaviors is incredibly difficult. If a person is in great danger physically, then the first step has to be to get him or her to a level of safety and restoration.
2. Emotional stability – depression and other mood disorders often go hand in hand with eating disorders. Unfortunately mood disorders and eating disorders feed each other causing a vicious cycle. If a person is depressed and feeling suicidal, there is a need for a higher level of care. Saying goodbye to a disorder is not a simple "let's just quit." Recovery often holds its own grief.
3. Behavior use – how often are behaviors being used? How often are they being used in comparison to previous months? Is the person able to tolerate not using a behavior for just a few hours, or is it impossible for him or her to tolerate a situation without a behavior? Is the disordered behavior impacting other areas of life (school, work, relationships)? These are some basic questions to ask in order to help guide the person to a level of care needed.
4. Support system – what type of support system does a person have? What are the living conditions and who can provide support (both emotionally and physically)? Does the support system understand the disease? Does the support system know effective ways to communicate?
5. Desire – how willing is the person to recover? Giving up a disorder requires a grief process. Eating disorders are not a vanity issue; they are typically a control issue that a person may both hate and love at the same time. Working towards recovery requires a person to take away attention from the disorder, and often times, that is painfully tough.
Taking Steps to Create an Eating Disorder Treatment Schedule
A person who is struggling does have a lot of individual power to create an eating disorder treatment plan. The first step is to find a professional team that they trust. Trust is a major component in this because a therapist or doctor needs to know the truth of a person's struggle. A treatment team can consist of any or all of the following: a therapist, a nutritionist, an internist to monitor physical health, and a psychiatrist.
Ideally, after finding and setting up a treatment team, a person can make a list of personal goals. These goals are both short term and long term. Short term goals around recovery can be a daily goal, even an hourly goal. Every success is counted! Long term goals can include things like looking at what life in recovery might allow the individual to do that the eating disorder has taken away.
Setting up a meal plan with a nutritionist can help give structure to a day and aid in the avoidance of adopting harmful practices such as restricting, binging and purging. As a meal plan is created, the person can use it to make a schedule of how to accomplish its aims. Setting up meals with friends, family, or other supports is all in the control of the person.
Another way a person can set up an eating disorder treatment schedule is to talk with others who have been through similar experiences. There are always groups online that are open for chat, even Facebook has groups that discuss treatment centers and various methods people have used to treat their disorders.
Ask questions! Lots of them! There are hundreds of resources out there. NEDA, ANRED, and other organizations that are specific for eating disorders are helpful in creating an eating disorder treatment schedule. (If you need resources on such organizations, click here for more information). Ask support groups in your local area for help and advice. Ask any member of a treatment team. Stop by the library to check out some reading materials to help educate and clarify any concerns.
Go to local support groups, DBT classes, awareness events and find support within the community. You do not have to make this journey alone.