What You Need to Know about Eating Disorder Treatment and Recovery.You're Not Alone. And There's Help.
Are you struggling with an eating disorder? We can help.
Led by one of the nation’s most prominent clinicians in treating eating disorders, Kimberly Dennis, MD, SunCloud Health is a leader in eating disorder treatment for men and women with anorexia, bulimia and binge-eating disorders.
One of the things we know is that people struggling with eating disorders don’t see the self-destructive behavior as the problem but rather they see it as their solution. Pain and trauma often lie at the root of ones disordered eating behavior. That is why one of the first questions we try and help people answer is not, “Why the addition?’, but rather, “Why the Pain”. By dissolving the underlying cause(s) of the pain, we help people shift from the self-destructive behavior of addiction, to leading a healthy, balanced and abundant life.
Eating disorders are generally defined by an unhealthy preoccupation with food, weight and other eating or body related behaviors which interfere with one’s ability to lead a healthy, balanced and peaceful life. Eating disorders can be serious and often include medical complications which if left untreated can be deadly. Men and women of all ages are affected, and effective evidence based treatment has proven that it can lead to long term sustainable recovery.
We’ve treated thousands of people just like you who want to take back their lives.
There are several different types of eating disorders that we treat.
The most common ones include:
- Anorexia (anorexia nervosa): a disease where the sufferer starves themselves because of the desire to maintain an unrealistic and unhealthy body image
- Bulimia (bulimia nervosa): a disease that triggers the sufferer to consume very large amounts of food (binge), and then to rid themselves of excess calories (purge)
- Binge Eating Disorder (eating disorder not otherwise specified): a disease where the sufferer compulsively overeats, often thousands of calories in a short period, and frequently in secret
- Body Dysmorphia
- Compulsive Overeating
Very frequently, but not always, there are other psychiatric conditions and/or addictions occurring at the same time as the eating disorder. These often exacerbate addictions, making recovery more challenging. We refer to this as “co-occurring”. We subscribe to the philosophy that when somebody has multiple manifestations, there may not be a primary diagnosis. Hence, “co-occurring”.
These diagnoses may include:
- Substance Use Disorders
- Borderline Personality Disorders
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Bipolar Disorder
- Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder
It is critical for a sufferer to seek medical treatment for eating disorders at the earliest sign of symptoms. Research shows that early and adequate intervention leads to the best clinical outcomes.
The good news is that treatment does work.
Do I Need Help?
Disordered eating behaviors stand in the way of the healthy experience of emotional, social and spiritual development, and prevent the sufferer from living a full life. They can sometimes be difficult to believe or even see at home with all of the dangerous and distorted messages we see in the media every day, but in fact they require professional eating disorder treatment. Behaviors associated with eating disorders may include:
- Constant adherence to increasingly strict diets, regardless of weight
- Habitual trips to the bathroom immediately after eating
- Secretly bingeing on large amounts of food
- Hoarding large amounts of food
- Increase in consumption of laxatives, diuretics or diet pills
- Exercising compulsively, often several hours per day
Common signs of the emotional changes associated with having an eating disorder are:
- Withdrawal from friends and family, particularly following questions about her disease or visible physical/medical side effects
- Avoidance of meals or situations where food may be present
- Preoccupation with weight, body size and shape, or specific aspects of one’s appearance
- Obsessing over calorie intake and calories burned via exercise, even as one may be losing significant amounts of weight
Dr. Kim and the team at SunCloud Health have treated thousands of people with eating disorders. Our care team recognizes that no two people are alike and it is important to meet the person where they are at as we design a customized care plan designed to meet our patient’s needs.
Pain resides behind most, if not all eating disorders. There is emotional pain, suffering, spiritual pain, a sense of alienation, a loss of meaning, a loss control and a sense that the eating disorder will make us feel better. To the person suffering, the eating disorder is not the problem but rather it is an attempt to solve a problem. Our patients who are suffering from eating disorders simply want what they feel life should give them but for some reason has not. They want something we all want… an abundant life.
At SCH we treat our patients and their families first and foremost as human beings, who courageously come to us in pain, seeking help and support. We believe our patients and their families deserve compassion and expertise in the care they receive.
Addressing the medical complications that many eating disorders generally have is extremely important, and is always one of the first aspects of the diseases we address. Our medical team works seamlessly with our therapists to support people in the life long journey of recovery that encompasses physical, emotional, psycho-social and spiritual growth.
Our program is successful in treating eating disorders because we understand that true long lasting and sustainable recovery is about more than just restoring weight, or helping someone stop purging. It is about addressing the underlying cause(s) of what is leading to the eating disorder. Recognizing that the self- destructive behavior is not a choice but rather a disease, and that the behavior is generally a symptom of some underlying cause, is critical. At SunCloud we do not separate the mind from the body nor do we separate the individual from their environment. We recognize that eating disorders can be complex illnesses, which require a holistic and integrated approach taking in to account and addressing all aspects of one’s life. We also know that if we do not treat the underlying cause of the eating disorder that while we may help one become abstinent from one addiction, another self-destructive behavior may manifest down the road. Our objective is to target the source of the pain with love and compassion, using the experience of our trained experts, many of whom are in recovery themselves.
We believe the whole family system is a critical component of treatment. Our aim is to help our patients feel supported in all contexts of their lives and this starts with their familial relationships. Family therapy engages all family members in a healing process rather than just focusing on the identified patient. We counsel parents and partners and provide psycho-education, in order to strengthen families and foster a nurturing home environment.
We are also experienced in diagnosing and effectively treating other aspects of our patient’s mental health which often make it that much more difficult to recover from the eating disorder, otherwise known as co-occurring disorders. These can include depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, substance use disorders (including alcoholism and drug addiction), borderline personality disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and sleep disorders.
What Does Treatment Look Like?
Everyone who comes to treatment has their own story and their own unique experiences. What most share in common beyond the pain and the self-destructive behavior in the form of an eating disorder is doubt or uncertainty as to whether or not treatment will work for them and if so, what type of treatment would be best. We know, because the data tells us so and because we see it in our patients every day, that proper treatment can and does work. We also know there may be some ambivalence, questions about cost and insurance, questions about the time commitment involved, questions about whether or not you would fit in…. Taking that first step can be difficult and might feel like it’s too much at first. However, once you make that decision to inquire about help, we try and make it as easy as possible.
Most of the treatment team here has their own experience with recovery from either an eating disorder, a substance use disorder, a mood disorder or a combination of all of them. We understand where you are at, and we know what is possible. We will help answer all of your questions as we support you in setting up an initial assessment with us which we feel is not only for us to determine if we can provide the right clinical care for you but also for you to decide if you feel we are the right fit for you. Our objective is always to make sure patients feel safe.
Prior to admission we will help you determine the following:
– Do you have an eating disorder which needs treatment and if so do we think SunCloud is the right place to address both the self-destructive behavior that is manifesting in the addiction as well as the underlying cause? What else may be going on and again, do we feel we could be the right place for you?
– Is outpatient care the right level of care for you and if so do we have a sense the estimated length of treatment?
– Do you feel safe and trusting of the team that is here to help you?
– What are your insurance benefits for eating disorder treatment and how much treatment will cost?
Do you have any current therapists or clinicians that you would like to remain a part of your treatment at SCH and if so, what does that look like? We are very supportive of working with your existing care team (Doctors, therapists and sometimes even family members) in the process if we all feel that person can continue to help you heal.
Once admitted your treatment team will consist of the following multi-disciplinary eating disorder treatment team that works together to provide your comprehensive, integrated and individualized treatment plan:
- Treatment coordinator/Primary Therapist
- Registered Dietician
- Registered Nurse Practitioner
- Family Therapist
- Body Image Eating Disorder Therapist
Additionally, we may refer you to other consulting healthcare providers such as a dentist, cardiologist, orthopedic surgeon, gynecologist or gastroenterologist.
Each team member brings their expertise and experience to treatment and all work together to provide an integrated approach to your individualized care plan. While here you will get as much support as you need and as you will allow us to give you. Your “buy in” (aka your commitment) to recovery cannot be understated. Recovery from an eating disorder requires a desire to get better and then the commitment to take treatment recommendations for you as you embark on the journey. You will have direct and daily access to some of the best treatment providers in the country here at SunCloud. You will participate in group therapy as well as individual therapy as part of your treatment. When you feel like something is working we want you to let us know. At the same time if something feels uncomfortable or you don’t understand why or maybe you feel like you just don’t fit in, we encourage an open dialogue.
Integrated and Individualized Treatment Plans:
Every person recovering from an eating disorder has their own story and their own unique needs. Some have been to treatment several times and some are coming to us for the very first time. Though inclusion of family members and your other treatment providers who know you when you first come to us for support is ideal,, we will only involve others with your explicit written consent. Our treatment plans are truly integrated and can be customized to fit each person’s unique needs. That said, we utilize specific evidence based approaches that have been proven to help people learn to manage their emotions and develop the tools to recover from eating disorders. Specific examples include:
- Expressive and experiential therapy
- Skills Based therapy such as DBT, ACT and CBT
- Twelve step facilitation
- Education about the disease, its effects on you, your mind, your soul and your body.
- Group sessions to teach and practice healthy interpersonal and relationship management
- Meal Support and regular consultation with dietary staff, as needed.
- Regular Psychiatric Consultations
- Family Therapy (including family participation, if appropriate)
- Yoga and Body Image Therapy, when appropriate
Life After Treatment:
As an outpatient treatment center we are in a position to continue to support you for as long as we all feel our services are useful. With multiple levels of outpatient care, you may decide to continue to stay connected through one of our aftercare outpatient groups or in some cases you may want to continue to see one of our therapists indefinitely. Though we understand fully that our patients want more health and not necessarily more treatment, we also understand these diseases often require a life-long commitment to sustainable recovery. Wherever you may be once we have helped you regain things that tend to get lost in the throes of an eating disorder such as balance, honesty, health (physical, emotional and spiritual) and most importantly yourself, we will work with you to provide a care plan that you can take with you forever, wherever you may go.
SCH is led by one of the nation’s most highly respected psychiatrists in the country who specializes in treating substance use disorders, eating disorders and related mood disorders. Dr. Kim Dennis, MD, formerly CEO and Medical Director of Timberline Knolls, has successfully treated thousands of people struggling with these diseases with an approach that integrates her training and experience as a doctor along with her passion for deep and honest therapy. All of our therapists are in recovery in some form or another. This comes from the top; Dr. Kim struggled with both an eating disorder and an alcohol use disorder while studying at The University of Chicago. Her handpicked team has personal knowledge of what it is like to lose control in the disease, and we bring that personal knowledge and experience to our evidence based work every day.
Nobody fits in to a neat little box and therefore neither should your treatment options. Though we recognize that every primary diagnosis requires specific attention, we do not have separate tracks for our patients. We are focused on getting to the root of the pain which we believe is causing the self-destructive behavior, and so we find it beneficial to eliminate the customary separate track system. We find that our patients, who so often don’t feel as though they fit in anywhere, thrive in this environment as they find common ground with people who may look different from them but who in fact are struggling with and facing very similar issues.
Treatment at SCH is really different; I’ve been to several so I know…. Most treatment centers are focused on normalizing eating behaviors, weight restoration (or loss) and that’s pretty much it. At SunCloud this stuff all matters but treatment is much deeper and so much more! I have been encouraged to look at what drove me to the disordered eating behaviors in the first place. I have looked at early childhood trauma, I have looked at dysfunctional and unhealthy relationships in my family, I have learned skills to help me respond differently to my thoughts and feelings and most importantly I have learned that I am not alone in my journey. Dr. Kim and her team genuinely care. This place is special. Thank you TK for suggesting I seek treatment at SunCloud!!!!
– SCH Patient