Best Dual Diagnosis Eating Disorder Treatment Options

Eating disorders are mental illnesses characterized by abnormal eating habits that end up causing serious mental distress or dangerous—and often fatal—health problems. Addressing conditions such as anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder is essential to stop them from taking control over the patient’s life, which could also lead to depression, substance abuse, or other dangerous health issues. Without timely treatment, eating disorders may become lifelong conditions and even lead to death.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS | Treatment | Dual Diagnosis | Facilities | How to Choose

Treatment of Eating Disorders

Treating an eating disorder involves different components of a treatment plan, in which psychological counseling is an essential part. The treatment modality most often used in therapeutic settings is cognitive behavioral therapy, during which you identify and challenge your views and behaviors related to your emotions and eating disorder and learn to replace them with healthy thoughts and habits. Group therapy offers you the chance to interact with others with eating disorders (which tends to make people feel less isolated) and to find other ways to challenge your destructive behavior and learn new eating and life skills. Family therapy helps those in your close circle to understand the disease and become part of the solution.

An important part of the treatment is nutritional counseling, during which the you learn about your nutritional needs, how to meet them, and how to develop healthy eating patterns.

Along with psychotherapy, doctors sometimes prescribe medication. Antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications are often given to help alleviate symptoms of these mood disorders. If the eating disorder has already created specific physical problems, medication targeted to manage those health issues may be prescribed. An important part of the treatment is nutritional counseling, during which you learn about your nutritional needs, how to meet them, and how to develop healthy eating patterns.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

A dual diagnosis is a condition in which an eating disorder is accompanied by substance abuse. As with other mental illnesses, the incidence of dual diagnosis is high in the case of those with eating disorders. According to the National Institute of Health, as many as 50% of people who have an eating disorder are also affected by substance abuse. Whether alcohol or drug abuse is the cause or the effect of the eating disorder, treating only one of these conditions is not sufficient. Since these co-existing conditions are strongly interrelated, the risk of relapse is high if treatment does not address both.

50% of those with an eating disorder also suffer from substance abuse.

This is the reason it is important that the diagnosis is comprehensive and that both conditions are recognized. In order to avoid jumping from one facility to another to address both issues, a treatment facility that offers services and treatment programs for both eating disorders and substance abuse is an appropriate option.

The staff at such a facility recognizes that it is harder to treat eating disorder patients with co-existing conditions and that these patients need additional care. Therefore, they have a multidisciplinary medical team that collaborates in devising an integrated, cohesive individual treatment plan that addresses both issues.

The first step of any dual diagnosis treatment plan is detoxification, which you must go through before eating disorder treatment can fully begin. This is necessary because the symptoms of eating disorders are worsened by substance abuse, so the substance dependency must be addressed first.

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Treatment Facility Options

People seeking eating disorder treatment have the option of either outpatient or inpatient care facilities. Outpatient treatment centers allow you to follow a treatment program while living at home, which is a good choice if you are in the early stages of the disease, if you can’t leave your job for a period of time, if you’re a student who cannot stop going to school, or if you’re a parent who wants to continue caring for your family while seeking treatment in a clinic.
When your eating disorder is in an advanced stage, however, inpatient care is likely necessary. For instance, people with anorexia may already be dangerously malnourished and underweight. Their state must be constantly monitored and stabilized in order to prevent vital organ failure.

People with dual diagnoses often have a better chance of success when they are removed from environments with negative influences, which makes residential care preferable. Inpatient care not only controls your environment, it also removes you from unnecessary distractions and surrounds you with a supportive group of people, making it easier to avoid going back to destructive behaviors.

Choosing the Best Facility

Whether choosing inpatient or outpatient care, it is best to weigh the reputation of the facilities you’re considering against a few other criteria. For instance, make sure that a multidisciplinary team is available and that its members work together and follow your progress from the beginning to the end of your individualized treatment program. This is even more important when treating co-occurring conditions, since the team’s specialty must encompass substance abuse and dependencies. Comprehensive psychiatric evaluation is important in correctly identifying the root causes of the disease and avoiding treatment that addresses only the symptoms.

Faith-Based Treatment

Another factor to consider is your preference regarding faith-based treatment. There are Christian treatment facilities that incorporate those religious beliefs into their programs. Other non-sectarian treatment facilities recognize the importance of spirituality in healing, but they welcome patients from all belief systems.

Looking for treatment

Finally, there are facilities that offer holistic-based treatment plans that work toward creating a healthy mind-body connection through yoga, meditation, acupuncture, massages, and other methods aimed to relieve and control stress.


Location and the availability of on-site facilities and resources are other aspects to consider when determining your best choice. A serene location is conducive to healing, and so are fitness facilities that ease you into a healthier lifestyle. If you prefer organic food while staying in rehab, ask whether or not it is available at a specific center. It is often ideal to choose an all-inclusive treatment center that does not force you to leave its campus to access necessary services included in the treatment plan.

Loved Ones

Finally, some facilities include your close circle of loved ones by offering family programs through which staff educate your relatives on how to become beneficial participants in treatment. Good facilities also take care to teach you new life skills to minimize the odds of relapse.

Finding the best facility to address your condition is essential. If left untreated, an eating disorder can take control over your life and even become deadly.

Last Update | 11 - 15 - 2022

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