Many patients being admitted to treatment for an eating disorder, or substance abuse that is dually diagnosed with an eating disorder, are young. Younger people are in need of family support during their time in treatment. Family therapy and family intensive weekend programs are routine part of many treatment programs around the world. Utilizing Family Based Therapy can greatly supplement one of the greatest challenges in eating disorder treatment: changing habits.
Treating Eating Disorders with Technology
Research has recently found that eating disorders thrive in the same area of the brain where long term habits are created. Habits are, of course, incredibly hard to break. Eating disorders aren’t purely habitual, though. They are also both physical and psychological. Combining physiology, neurobiology and psychology, eating disorders become a trifecta of difficulty in treatment. Unlike substance abuse where life can be lived in abstinence from drugs or alcohol, people suffering from eating disorders cannot abstain from food. Instead, they have to learn to rebuild their relationships with themselves, their bodies, and how they eat. Families can provide guidance, encouragement and enforcement in this area.
Through family based therapy, families are first educated about the illness of eating disorders. Though information is emerging, there is a lack in deep understanding about eating disorders. Families need to understand that their loved one is not arbitrarily defying authority or rebelling against any system by refusing to eat, or practicing bulimia. Using the illness model, families come to understand their loved one is sick with a curious disorder. Their child is incapable of properly gauging food intake.
Families are then tasked with the responsibility to temporarily enforce rules in a positive way. Food must become a non-negotiable. Overtime, the child learns that their behaviors will not endure. As they begin to eat regularly again, they receive love and praise, as well as other rewards in life. They feel better and their minds begin to change about how they approach life as a whole.
Like any early recovery process, the beginning is difficult. Resistance is likely, because the associations of fear and food run strong. Consistent family therapy sessions, individual therapy sessions, and new routines supplement the process. Support from family can make or break a recovery process. Families can heal from a loved one’s eating disorders together and grow for the better.