Eating disorders, which range from restrictive types like anorexia nervosa to purging types like bulimia nervosa, all the way to those which result in weight gain, like binge eating disorder, are very common.  They affect millions of people in the United States and other developed nations – and yet they are still often misunderstood. Some people still believe that an eating disorder cureis as simple as deciding to eat more or stop vomiting after meals.  This attitude is deeply dangerous, as it reduces a series of deeply complex disorders to a simple fix – a reduction that can cost lives. Eating disorder treatment centers that take the complexity of the disorder seriously are available, however. The statistics that they’ve compiled show that while there’s no simple eating disorder solution, there is hope for people who want to get help.

Relapse Rates Are Relatively High

According to a 2005 study by clinical experts, relapse rates for women with anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa have shockingly high rates of relapse. For the former, 36 percent of women who had received professional treatment fell back into disordered behavior patterns, and for women with bulimia nervosa, 35 percent began to binge and purge again. By the time most women begin to receive treatment, their disordered thought and behavior patterns are deeply ingrained – and like most personality facets, it’s not easy to completely leave it behind. In some cases, more than one stay at a residential or outpatient facility may be necessary. There’s simply no magic pill that can completely stop an eating disorder; a commitment to maintaining recovery and an ability to overcome urges work much better.

There’s No Single Cause, and That Means There’s No Single Treatment

Unlike purely medical diseases, like, for example, tuberculosis caused by a specific bacteria, there is no single, easily identified cause of eating disorders.  Experts at eating disorder facilities and clinical research studies have shown that normally, eating disorders are caused by a combination of several factors.  These include genetic factors (parents who have eating disorders tend to pass them down), biological factors (women are more prone than men to develop an eating disorder), and various social factors including media and peers influencing a person’s self-image negatively.  Because of the diverse variety of possible causes of any eating disorder, any program that treats them must be individualized. It’s a complex process; the specific causes of an eating disorder must be addressed as comprehensively as the physical symptoms, and that takes time and dedication on the part of the client and their treatment team.

Medical, Psychiatric, and Spiritual Care Are All Necessary

At virtually every modern, accredited eating disorder treatment facility, the staff takes a multidisciplinary approach to promote recovery for anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder and other, less-known disorders.  Naturally, any serious medical complications must be immediately addressed.  Eating disorders left untreated are the most dangerous mental health disorders, resulting in malnutrition, bone and liver disease, and in some cases even death.  However, simply dealing with the physical symptoms is akin to mopping up the water after a clogged drain overflows – it doesn’t solve the problem.  That’s why the emotional and spiritual causes of eating disorders must also be addressed once the medical symptoms are stabilized.  This can involve programs that promote a more objective self-image, mindfulness exercises, talk therapy in group and individual settings, and other methodologies that have been proven effective over the years.  The best facilities will take their time to develop a unique program for each client, proving no panacea can magically “cure” every disorder.

“No Simple Cure” Doesn’t Mean You Should Lose Hope

This can all sound very discouraging, but it shouldn’t.  After all, the majority of people who get treatment don’t relapse, there may be no single cure but there is a wide variety of possible treatment, and facilities are creating integrated, evidence-based programs for recovery every day.  If you or a loved one is suffering from an eating disorder or simply wants to find out more, don’t be nervous. While it might not be simple, there is an eating disorder solution for you.