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What is Anorexia Nervosa?

Anorexia nervosa, more commonly known as anorexia, is an eating disorder characterized by the obsession with body shape, weight, and food intake that leads to self-imposed starvation.

To prevent themselves from gaining weight or to continue losing weight, individuals with anorexia will resort to severe food intake restriction and/or over exercise. Some people with anorexia may eat regular meals or even engage in binge eating, only to purge later. They may also refuse to change disordered eating behaviors or to be admitted to anorexia nervosa treatment centers. Without a proper anorexia treatment plan, a person with anorexia may reach a point where they still perceive themselves as fat despite being significantly underweight.

While anorexia is most distinguished by irregular eating behaviors, it involves factors beyond food. Its symptoms are attempts to cope with emotions that are seemingly unmanageable by achieving control and perfectionism, at least over the body and appetite. For those living with anorexia, the feeling of self-worth comes from the ability to reach their goal of losing weight.

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Often, symptoms of anorexia develop after certain emotional life experiences. A person’s genetic history also plays a role. Symptoms often develop gradually, over a period of years. Among women, symptoms usually manifest in the teenage years. But reports citing anorexia symptoms in preteen girls and boys are increasing in number.

Symptoms of anorexia appear in two patterns:

  • Deliberate refusal to maintain a healthy body weight relative to their height and age
  • Severely distorted self-image; often accompanied by the perception of fat, despite being underweight

At the onset of anorexia, the individual may exhibit symptoms that can be hard to distinguish from normal eating or dieting behavior. The symptoms may also be dismissed as side effects of prescription drugs or attributed to other health issues.

In many cases, anorexia symptoms are invisible to the untrained eye. Trained eating disorder professionals have the ability to distinguish anorexic behaviors. Some of the physical signs professionals look out for include:

  • Thin appearance
  • Severe weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Brittle nails
  • Dry skin
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Thinning, breaking, or falling out of hair
  • Seizures
  • Dehydration
  • Abnormal blood counts
  • Low blood pressure
  • Elevated liver enzymes
  • Irregular heart rhythms
  • Amenorrhea or the absence of menstruation
  • Lanugo or the presence of fine hair on the extremities
  • Constipation
  • Intolerance of cold
  • Osteoporosis or the loss of bone calcium

It is not uncommon for people who have eating disorders to experience co-occurring symptoms such as:

  • Abuse of Stimulants
  • Co-occurring Alcoholism
  • Co-occurring Personality Disorders
  • Purging Behaviors with Starvation
The early signs of anorexia mostly involve preoccupation with obsessive or compulsive dieting or eating behavior. A person with anorexia may gradually show disordered eating patterns until these become visible to others and possibly interfere with their career, school and relationship with family and friends.

If you worry that you or someone close to you may have anorexia, here are some early signs to look out for:

  • Obsession with body size and shape
  • Denial of hunger
  • Skipping meals
  • Making excuses for not eating
  • Refusal to eat
  • Developing eating rituals like spitting food out after eating or cutting food up into small pieces
  • Eating only certain foods they consider safe; often those low in calories and fat
  • Preparing huge meals for others but refusing to eat
  • Exercising excessively

Several other behaviors may also be apparent, including:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Lack of emotion
  • Flat mood
  • Repeated weighing
  • Frequent complaining about being fat
  • Checking for perceived flaws in the mirror

The effects of anorexia nervosa vary, depending on the disease’s severity. A person with anorexia may feel the following effects:

  • Disruption of career
  • Withdrawal from school
  • Isolation
  • Loss of connection to religion or faith
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempt

These effects tend to worsen as the person crowds their mind with thoughts about food. Anorexia also affects an individual physically, and the consequences of starvation are often irreversible. Physical effects reflect the high death rate associated with anorexia.

Some of these effects include:

  • Infertility
  • Heart attacks
  • Brain damage
  • Shutdown of major body organs

These are some of the common effects experienced by individuals with anorexia. However, the disease affects men and women differently and there are signs, symptoms, and patterns that specialists can better detect and identify.

Tailored Treatment Programs for
Anorexia Nervosa at EDCare

Anorexia comes with many serious, life-threatening consequences. The worst part is, the disease is quick to take over and impact the anorexic individual’s life, including the decisions they make. It adversely affects the person’s view of the world, and their self-image.

Given the severity of the effects associated with anorexia, many treatment centers focus on treating the disease alone. But to truly recover from anorexia, you’ll need a treatment center that goes beyond simply treating the symptoms.

So you can heal fully, you need treatment programs for anorexia nervosa that focus on you as a whole. You need professionals who look into the circumstances that may have affected the development of your symptoms and the progression of the disease.

It’s important for us at EDCare to fully understand your symptoms. Before we can provide you with a treatment program tailored to your unique needs, we will take the time to sit down with you and listen to your story.

EDCare offers different levels of care to fully address your individual needs. We understand you may have questions about our admission process. Before we get to the different treatment options available to you, we’ll give you an idea of what you can expect during the admissions process.

When you are admitted into our anorexia treatment facility, you will undergo a comprehensive psychiatric and medical assessment. Once your assessment results are ready, you will be assigned an anorexia treatment team. We’ll give you time to settle in before we introduce you to your treatment team.

Your treatment team includes a primary therapist, a registered dietitian (RD), a psychiatrist (MD), and  other specialists trained and experienced in the treatment of anorexia. In your first few days at EDCare, every member of your treatment team will provide further assessments, so we can develop a full understanding of your circumstances and needs. Then we’ll review and discuss the results before we devise and implement a unique treatment plan for you.

Anorexia Nervosa is a complex psychiatric illness. Comprehensive care from qualified eating disorder specialists is necessary for long-term recovery. EDCare’s dedicated team is not only here to help determine the right level of care, but also navigate the costs associated with anorexia treatment. EDCare is in-network with over 35 different insurance providers, including Colorado Medicaid and TRICARE®. We also work with out-of-network insurances to negotiate single-case agreements and arrange individual payment plans when necessary. Helping patients remain recovery focused so they can live healthy lives is why we strive to provide the highest standard in quality care that is also cost-effective.

To help patients who live with anorexia improve their outlook on weight and body shape and form healthier eating patterns, EDCare offers different levels of care. Anorexia affects each individual differently, which is why we will create a comprehensive treatment plan that meets your needs no matter where you are in your anorexia recovery journey.

Partial Hospitalization Program

The Partial Hospitalization Program is specifically designed to address the most difficult eating disorders. It helps patients learn, internalize, and put into practice recovery skills that are essential in gradually transitioning from our environment back into their homes.

Intensive Outpatient Program

When patients have learned to internalize the skills they have learned in the Partial Hospitalization Program, they may move into the Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP). At this stage, patients begin the transition to eating meals on their own and spending time outside of the center.

Evening Intensive Program

The Evening Intensive Outpatient Program (EIOP) is a multifaceted, 10-week program that aims to disrupt old behavior patterns, address the patients’ fears, and encourage them to take on new challenges. The program offers Meal Therapy as well as Art Therapy, process Groups, and other treatment methods.

Adolescent Intensive Program

EDCare’s Adolescent Intensive Outpatient Program (AIOP) is available to individuals 14-17 years old. The program provides support for patients and their families in confronting the challenges that come with an eating disorder.

Outpatient Aftercare Program

Recovery from anorexia requires life-long focus. EDCare’s Outpatient and Aftercare Services is here to offer continuous support to patients who have completed any of our treatments.

EDCare believes that taking ownership of your treatment is pivotal to your recovery. When you recognize the role you play in your treatment that recovery can be accomplished. Our team of professionals will formulate your, then sit down with you to discuss our recommendations in detail. This collaborative approach allows you to communicate your thoughts about the treatment, including your goals. You will have a say on the elective elements of your treatment, including any steps that may be taken to also address co-occurring addiction problems or psychiatric concerns.

EDCare does not follow a cookie-cutter approach when creating treatment plans. We stress that anorexia is different for everyone, and so is recovery. This makes it difficult to provide an estimate of the duration of treatment or the amount of time a person needs to be in a treatment program.

In general, the duration of treatment for the Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) is between 30-60 days. Depending on how well you are doing, you may spend more or less time in the program. As your goals are reached, you will determine the next steps with help from your treatment team. PHP patients typically transition to our Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) to continue receiving clinical support. Your transition from PHP to IOP will help you make sure you practice the recovery skills independently.

As you transition out of our treatment center, back into your daily life at home, your team provides you with a tailored discharge plan to reduce the risk of a relapse. You will either transition back into the care of your previous outpatient team or we’ll work with you in finding local resources in case you don’t have one. Regardless, we will help make sure you are fully supported so you can meet your long-term recovery needs.

The EDCare Treatment Process

Anorexia Nervosa, like all eating disorders, is a serious mental illness. Learning about your anorexia treatment options, finding the right level of care, and being admitted under the right program can mean the difference between life and death.

EDCare is home to compassionate eating disorder professionals who will walk you through your path to recovery. During your initial assessment, one of our Assessment Clinicians will help you identify the appropriate level of care, based on your needs.

Let’s take a deeper look at our unique anorexia treatment programs, so you can better understand what to expect if you admit to one of our programs.

EDCare’s Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) is the highest level of care you can receive at EDCare for the treatment of anorexia. This program is ideal if you feel that you do not require the supervision provided in residential or inpatient programs, but require more support than what regular outpatient therapy can provide.

What makes EDCare’s PHP unique? We have designed this inclusive program specifically for adults, ages 18 and older. In other programs, patients meet with their treatment team only four to five days a week, but with EDCare’s highly structured PHP, you meet with your team seven days a week. You will also receive 10 hours of program support from Monday through Friday, with reduced hours on weekends. Local patients often return home after program hours. For patients who live out of town or need additional after-hours support, we offer housing at our apartment in Kansas City and Connections House in Denver.

Our Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) builds the foundation for long-term recovery from anorexia. In this program, you will begin to practice the skills you have acquired from PHP. While you will be applying these skills independently, you will still receive structured clinical support.

EDCare’s IOP is a gender-inclusive program for individuals ages 18 and above, offered at both our Denver and Kansas City treatment centers. We believe the skill you gain in PHP are essential to your long-term recovery and for this reason, we do not direcly admit individuals into our Daytime IOP.

Our Evening Intensive Outpatient Program (EIOP) is for those who need comprehensive support, but may be unable to seek a higher level of care because they work full-time, are in school, or have other responsibilities. EIOP is for adults ages 18 and older and is available at our eating disorder treatment centers at Denver, Kansas City, Colorado Springs, and Lincoln. EIOP gives you four hours of program support Monday through Thursday. Under this program, you will learn to disrupt unproductive behaviors, face your fears, and tackle new challenges.

EDCare’s Adolescent Intensive Outpatient Program (AIOP) is available in our Colorado Springs eating disorder treatment center and is similar to our adult EIOP. The difference is, this program is tailored for teenagers ages 14-17. The patient’s family is also encouraged to take on an active role in their loved one’s treatment plan. AIOP easily fits into a teen’s schedule and lifestyle, with its evening programming. This allows them to attend school while learning skills essential to coping with anorexia.

Recovery from anorexia nervosa is possible. Ongoing support and access to recovery resources through our Outpatient and Aftercare Services will help you maintain success long-term.

Anorexia Nervosa is a complicated illness, and treatment is often highly challenging. Having highly trained and dedicated clinicians who have experience treating anorexia is critical to your recovery.

EDCare’s clinical leadership team brings to the table decades of valuable experience specific to the treatment of anorexia nervosa.

In each of our locations, you will find a multidisciplinary team of family therapists, clinicians, psychiatrists, registered dietitians, and experiential therapists. We believe ongoing collaboration is key and will work with you in achieving your long-term recovery. Here, you can expect to receive the highest standard in care and patient safety, reflected in our Behavioral Health Care accreditation with the Joint Commission. In the hands of our caring and capable professionals, long-term recovery from anorexia is possible!

In treating anorexia nervosa, EDCare takes a realistic, supportive approach. Our team understands your apprehension, so instead of judging or policing, we use an empowering approach that alleviates negative emotions. Empathy and listening are at the core of our treatment programs, and these principles allow us to guide you towards making healthy changes in your eating behavior.

A Safe and Supportive Environment

The EDCare anorexia treatment team creates an environment where you can feel safe about sharing your emotions about eating and food in general. You’re not alone – we are here to help you through your experience with anorexia and understand your feelings. Our team provides you with the support you need to make healthy food choices. By setting up activities such as grocery shopping and cooking, we help prepare you for the real-world while you are surrounded by professionals who care about helping you overcome anorexia.

Onboarding the Family

The most integral part of our anorexia recovery program is family involvement. EDCare engages your family in the recovery process. Meal preparation and nutrition education during program visits are some of the approaches we use in integrating your family into the treatment and recovery process. Families who live outside the area are kept in the loop through conferences over the phone. We may also encourage the family to practice with the patient, if clinically appropriate.

Going Down the Path to Long-Term Recovery

EDCare understands how making the decision to pursue anorexia treatment is a daunting step in itself.

When you are feeling a bit apprehensive about receiving treatment, it is important to keep sight of the outcome. You’re turning a new leaf and taking full control of your life story. You are setting goals and with appropriate treatment and full support from your treatment team and your loved ones, you can succeed. You are about to live your best life.

Throughout the course of your anorexia treatment, you may feel uncertain about your progress. While these roadblocks may leave you with feelings of ambivalence, remember that giving in to these emotions may impede your progress and even cause you to want to dropout from the program. The stages of recovery from anorexia or any other eating disorder is not a linear progression – it’s a cycle. When you’re feeling uncertain about how you’re faring, rest assured that you will receive continuous encouragement and support from our caring team at EDCare.

Years of experience have taught us at EDCare that suffering goes beyond you, the patient in treatment. Eating disorders also affect your family and friends. Throughout your time in treatment, we encourage family involvement, so you can heal and grow together. We use Group Therapy and Individual Family Therapy as supportive, strength-based, and recov­ery-focused approaches to anorexia treatment. Our methods do not only allow your family and loved ones insight into your struggles, they also provide you with ways you can create family goals, improve communication, offer one another support, and ultimately, apply therapy into your daily lives.

Contact EDCare

We offer various treatment options at each of our locations in Denver, Colorado Springs, Kansas City and Lincoln. Call or fill out an inquiry form by choosing the location nearest you. One of our compassionate Admissions Clinicians will be happy to give you more information about our program and answer any questions you have.

Denver – (866) 771-0861
Colorado Springs – (719) 578-5132
Kansas City – (913) 945-1277
Lincoln – (402) 408-0294