How to support someone with an eating disorder
Supporting someone with an eating disorder is never an easy task so I have summarized some tips to enable you on How to support someone with an eating disorder. During the course of someone’s illness, treatment of eating disorders is more likely to be successful if started early, according to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines. Those suspected of suffering from an eating disorder should receive a full assessment as soon as possible. Ideally, once diagnosed, treatment should start within 2-4 weeks. During the initial appointment, patients should be weighed weekly and scheduled for weekly appointments.
Assessments of medical risks
In order to ensure patients’ physical safety and physical health, medical risk assessments are performed. A screening tool can assist with the assessment of physical risks, which can help determine their severity and help manage them. Patients under the age of 18 with eating disorders are often treated with the Junior MARSIPAN tool (Management of Really Sick Patients with Anorexia Nervosa) if they are suspected or diagnosed. Adult services often use the MARSIPAN tool to assess and treat people who are suspected or have been diagnosed with eating disorders. In addition to providing guidance and recommendations, these tools are also valuable resources. There may be variations of these tools being used in your local Trust, or there may be a different tool being used. Keep in mind that your local trust’s policies and processes need to be adhered to.
You can find the MARSIPAN tool for adults here: MARSIPAN CHECKLIST PDF
Most smartphones are capable of downloading both MARSIPAN risk assessment tools as apps. The app can be found by searching ‘Marsipan’ or ‘Junior Marsipan’ in your app store.
Who should provide this support?
Youth who receive eating disorder treatment from mental health professionals and services that specialize in diagnosing and treating eating disorders are less likely to require inpatient treatment. For people with eating disorders, it is advisable to seek treatment from specialized services whenever possible.
Can you imagine how this support might look?
It is extremely important to remember that a patient’s specific physical health interventions depend on the severity of their illness and any complications they may have developed. If complications arise, specialists in cardiology and gastroenterology will handle the treatment, such as heart failure and unresolvable constipation.
The role of a dietitian in the recovery of those with eating disorders is significant. In order to promote healthier, more balanced eating habits, they can work closely with patients to develop detailed nutritional plans. Healthy nutrition is essential for both physical and mental health recovery.
People with eating disorders suffer from physical health complications and consequences due to disordered thinking processes. Psychological treatment and support are also essential. Following this section, we will examine key approaches to providing psychological support to people with eating disorders.
Supporting People with Eating Disorders: Psychological Health
Individuals with eating disorders may require different levels of psychological support and treatment based on their diagnosis and individual characteristics. There is no one-size-fits-all treatment, and the same treatment may not work for some patients and may work for others. The following are some common approaches to providing psychological support for people suffering from eating disorders.
Therapy that involves talking
Talking therapy is often prescribed for people with eating disorders. These are psychological treatments that help patients overcome cognitive and emotional difficulties. It is critical to note that there are many different types of talking therapy, but nearly all of them involve the interaction of a trained therapist. There are a variety of types of therapists, whether they are psychologists, clinicians, or counsellors. Depending on the patient’s specific needs, the care team will select the appropriate therapy.
Eating disorders are commonly treated with the following therapies:
A Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)- The goal of this type of therapy is to teach people how to recognize and challenge their negative beliefs and thoughts. It is possible to change someone’s behavior by changing their thinking in this way.
Therapy for the family- Families who work together to manage someone’s behavior and condition are particularly helpful for children and young people with eating disorders.
An Interpersonal psychotherapy (ITP) – During this type of therapy, the practitioner focuses on the relationship between when and how symptoms emerge, as well as any interpersonal issues an individual may be experiencing.
Psychodynamic Therapy– A primary goal of this process is to uncover thoughts and ways of thinking within someone’s mind that are not usually apparent to them.
Treatment of eating disorders can be aided by medication. In terms of standard treatment, medications are not typically prescribed for Anorexia Nervosa. The reason for this is that there hasn’t been enough evidence that they are effective.
Often, bulimia nervosa or BED patients are prescribed an antidepressant or mood-stabilizing medication in conjunction with talking therapy. Bulimia patients can benefit from antidepressants in many ways. They are not only able to improve mood but also reduce uncontrolled overeating.
In addition to treating co-existing mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety, medication may also be used to treat other medical conditions.
When and where will treatment take place?
In order to obtain treatment for eating disorders, a person may choose from three options:
A patient that is admitted to a specialist hospital and stays there for treatment is considered an inpatient.
An outpatient day program involves sleeping at home while attending a clinic every day for treatment.
Patients who receive outpatient care live at home and maintain regular appointments with a clinic or hospital. A majority of eating disorder patients receive this form of treatment.
Referral to support services
The most reliable way to ensure that your patient connects with a healthcare professional (such as a doctor, physician associate, or advanced nurse practitioner) if you are concerned that they may be suffering from an eating disorder is to ask your seniors or colleagues for advice and follow local referral pathways. Upon request, your patient can be referred to a specialist eating disorder service, and multidisciplinary support can be initiated as needed.
The local emergency protocol should be activated if you are concerned that someone is in immediate danger. Calling 999 may be necessary depending on where you live.
The majority of patients will receive formal medical care, but you may be able to recommend a range of support services to them as an alternative. Among them are:
Call the Beat Eating Disorders charity helpline on 0808 801 0677. 365 days a year, the helpline is open from 9 am-8 pm during the week, and from 4 pm-8 pm on weekends and holidays. If you are in the US, ANAD’s free eating disorders Helpline is also available to provide emotional support and referrals. Contact them at 1 (888)-375-7767
The Beat Eating Disorders charity offers one-to-one web chats to help people overcome eating disorders.
The Samaritans are available by calling 116-123 at any time if you need support.