The Importance of Early Intervention for Eating Disorders

Early Intervention for Eating Disorders

When it comes to eating disorder treatment and recovery, the images we’re shown aren’t the most encouraging. Recognizing the impact eating disorders can have on one’s health and wellness is important. However, limiting the depiction of these mental health conditions to the worst cases leaves many confused and in limbo. By perpetuating this harmful stereotype, society reinforces dangerous thoughts about ‘rock bottom’ and what it means to be ‘sick enough’ for treatment. At Eating Disorder Solutions in Dallas, Texas, we know early intervention for eating disorders and proper treatment is integral to successful recovery.

Debunking the Myth of “Rock Bottom”

The idea that we should reach some level of extreme distress and dysfunction before being worthy of care is something nearly exclusive to mental illness. While one may not necessarily run to the hospital for a minor headache or bruise, we don’t expect those with symptoms of diabetes or cancer to wait until the battle is nearly lost to seek help. We understand, in those situations, that early detection and intervention is one’s best bet at wellness– so why is it different for illnesses of the mind?

Eating disorders have one of the highest mortality rates among mental illnesses. Treating an eating disorder early can quite literally be the difference between life and death for many. The longer someone with an eating disorder suffers, the greater the risk for long-term and irreversible consequences. Physical health complications can lead to serious and life-threatening illnesses such as diabetes, cancer, organ failure and even death. 

ADDITIONAL READING: Am I Sick Enough for Treatment?

Mentally, restriction and other eating disorder behaviors like bingeing, purging, and excessive exercise are habits that are reinforced by repetition, making them more difficult to overcome. Eating disorders are also commonly co-occurring with other conditions like depression and anxiety, creating a feedback loop of distress, urges, and harmful behaviors. 

Rock bottom is one of the most harmful myths we still believe in. Beyond the obvious implications that some quota of suffering must be met before you ‘deserve’ help, it is impossible to gauge. What is the breaking point for one person may not be enough to bring change in another. Waiting for rock bottom is a game none of us can afford to lose. 

What is rock bottom when it comes to eating disorders? Is it missing an important event because you’re afraid of others judging what and how much you eat? Losing your hair? When friends or your family confront you with their concerns? Organ failure? Is it necessary to experience any of these things before seeking help? No.

Early treatment allows for faster recovery, reduces chances of relapsing back into the illness, and significantly lessens the physical toll on the body. Don’t let disordered thinking stand in the way of a healthier, happier life.

Signs and Early Intervention for Eating Disorders

Early intervention for eating disorders relies on the ability to recognize early signs and symptoms. Often subtle and easy to overlook, some signs may include:

  • Rushing to the bathroom immediately after a meal 
  • Foul smelling breath after damage to the enamel caused by vomiting
  • Making excuses for skipping meals
  • Excessive talk about calories and calorie counting
  • Dry skin, hair, and brittle fingernails
  • Increased avoidance of any food or type of food (i.e., no carbohydrates, sugar, etc.)
  • New or changed food rituals (no eating before or after a certain time despite hunger, excessive chewing, etc.)
  • Prioritizing weight loss, dieting, and food control
  • Hoarding food or evidence of excessive food consumption (hiding wrappers in drawers, eating in the dark in the middle of the night, etc.)
  • Obsessive, rigid exercise routines with little rest between workout sessions
  • Obsessive body checking and distress toward perceived flaws
  • Avoidance of questions or concerns about eating habits

While none of these symptoms are absolute indicators of an eating disorder, they are cause for concern. Ignoring these signs only allows the condition to worsen in secrecy until it becomes something that cannot be overlooked. 

What Eating Disorder Treatment Looks Like

Eating disorders are often symptoms of underlying mental health issues which require equal attention for lasting success in recovery. Because of this, an integrated approach to care which addresses both disordered eating patterns and the mental and emotional roots of these behaviors is vital to the healing journey.

At Eating Disorder Solutions, our priority is always you and your recovery. By taking the time to get to know each client and their individual story and experiences, we are able to develop personalized treatment plans to meet their needs. This includes meal support, group and individual therapy, nutrition education counseling, and more. From experiential therapies including cooking and plating meals to evidence-based cognitive therapies, we help clients address the source of their disorder while also providing the support and skills for real-world healing and growth.

Don’t wait until it’s too late. If you or someone you love may be struggling with an eating disorder, call us now for more information about how we can help.