Eating Disorders Beyond CBT: Elizabeth Dear, MFT, LCADC

Eating Disorders

Food is one of the earliest ways we humans experience nurturance and interaction with a caring adult. Due to these early associations, food takes on many meanings about relationships, needs, control, and the value of self. The development of an eating disorder signals a problem in one or several of these areas; the eating disorder arises as an attempt to solve this problem, by drawing attention to the problem, by pulling the family together to address the new problem of the eating disorder, or by expressing and/or repressing feelings related to the problem.

Having worked with people with eating disorders in inpatient, residential, and outpatient treatment, I am acutely aware of how deeply an eating disorder can affect a person and her or his loved ones. Assessing the appropriate level of care is an important first step; some people need 24 hour care in order to be medically monitored and to reconnect to the body’s innate ability to communicate hunger and satiety and to break the addictive patterns of restriction, bingeing, purging, or compulsive exercise. For others, outpatient care of individual and sometimes group therapy will suffice to assist a person recover.