Hello, again! This is Vanessa, the graduate counseling intern. Some of you may have read the blog I wrote a few weeks ago announcing National Eating Disorder Awareness Week.

Today, I’d like to discuss the various options that people who suffer from disordered eating or an eating disorder and their families have in terms of seeking help:

1) Choosing not to seek help for an eating disorder

Many people choose to live with an eating disorder without ever seeking treatment. This is unfortunate because often times the person is not really living at all. Many times, people with eating disorders feel like they are trapped and have no control over their lives.

Eating disorders have the highest rate of mortality when compared with any other mental illness. There are many serious physical complications resulting from an eating disorder, not to mention the intense emotional and mental struggles. Seeking treatment can help in all of these areas.

2) Tell your psychiatrist or other medical doctor

It is always a good idea to talk to your psychiatrist or other doctor about your eating/exercise habits. It is often very difficult for someone struggling with an eating disorder to take this first step in telling anyone about what he or she is dealing with. However, your doctor can help to get you in touch with a therapist who specializes in this area. It is also important for your doctor to be informed about your health status.

3) Individual therapy with a licensed professional

Individual outpatient therapy is usually recommended as the minimum level of care required for someone who has an eating disorder. Outpatient therapy means that the client sees a therapist in his or her office 1 or more times per week.

If you are interested in individual therapy because you or someone you care about has an eating disorder or disordered eating, please contact me! Vanessa, the graduate counseling intern at Vanessa_Curran@aol.com

Individual therapy is a good choice if your eating disorder is not severe enough that you require residential or inpatient treatment. For instance, if you are engaging in eating disorder behaviors like bingeing, purging or restricting, individual therapy can help you to manage these behaviors, get some much needed relief from your emotional struggles and help you understand how your eating disorder may have began.

4) Group therapy:

Group therapy, in conjunction with individual therapy can be very helpful in several ways. It can help you to feel less alone in your struggles since you will be talking with others who have similar issues. Also, group members are often able to offer insight to each other that is very valuable.

There is a group for people who have eating disorders that currently takes place at 204 E Lockwood Ave. in Webster Groves every Sunday evening at 5:30-6:45p. It is facilitated by a staff member at Castlewood Treatment Center for Eating Disorders and the only requirement is that you must be seeing a therapist in order to join. You can call Castlewood for more information at (636) 386-6611.

5) Dietician:

It is important to see a dietician or nutritionist as well as a therapist to help you with your eating/exercising/compensation habits. A dietician can help you come up with a meal plan that is right for you and make sure your nutritional needs are being met.

6) Residential Treatment:

Residential treatment might be right for you if your eating disorder is so severe that you are restricting/purging/over-exercising/taking laxatives, etc. several times a day or you feel completely out of control. Residential treatment means that you live in the facility and see a therapist several times a week there and participate in group therapy as well. 24 hour support is available by trained professionals who are skilled in the area of eating disorders. It is very common that someone with an eating disorder has to enter residential treatment due to the serious nature of the illness. It is nothing to be ashamed of!

Residential treatment centers for eating disorders in St. Louis include: Castlewood Treatment Center for Eating Disorders (636-386-6611) and McCallum Place (314-968-1900).

There are different levels of care offered at both of these facilities to support in the transition out of residential treatment back to your regular life.

7) Inpatient Hospitalization:

This option is the highest level of care offered for someone who has an eating disorder. There are countless physical implications associated with eating disorders, including but not limited to: loss of consciousness, electrolyte imbalance, erosion of the teeth enamel, weak heart and other organs, severe intestinal issues, etc. Inpatient hospitalized is designed to treat the immediate medical complications of your eating disorder in a hospital setting. Typically, when a patient is released from a hospital, they seek out residential treatment since their health is heavily compromised by their eating disorder.

Remember: People who work in the field of eating disorders understand how hard it is for someone to take that first step in finding help. They also do not judge and know that an eating disorder is not simply “a choice” that someone should just “stop doing.” They want to help you start living again.

(Please refer to my previous blog to learn about what an eating disorder is, the different types of eating disorders and to learn about symptoms of eating disorders.)

If you have any questions about eating disorders or poor body image, or want to know how to approach someone you know who might have an eating disorder, please do not hesitate to contact me.

– Vanessa


Vanessa Curran is a Graduate Counseling Student with Webster University and a Graduate Counseling Intern at Step By Step Counseling.