As many Americans struggle with mental health, new reports show that eating disorders in particular increased in the last year. Unfortunately, many people are not getting the treatment they need.
Ongoing waiting lists and backlogs have delayed treatment for people with eating disorders. Because eating disorders often accompany other physical and mental health conditions, long-term success can be difficult to achieve. And finally, many experts are challenging the way that providers and the general public think about disordered eating and how to treat it.
Delays in getting eating disorder treatment
A report by nonprofit FAIR Health found that, from January to November 2020, eating disorders increased among individuals aged 13-18 years. (Download the PDF here.) This has created an increased demand for treatment that providers are scrambling to meet.
According to NPR, a nationwide network of 15 different hospitals have reported a doubling in average admissions for eating disorders in teens. In fact, health leaders in Milwaukee, Wis., have noted this has led to a backlog in services.
New patients may have to wait weeks or even months to be seen. Isolation and limited physical activity may have worsened preexisting depression. Disruption of routines and structure also make healthy habits difficult.
Eating disorders can be complicated to treat
According to the National Institutes of Health, eating disorders can increase the risk of medical issues and even mortality. In particular, anorexia nervosa is associated with the highest mortality rate of any mental health condition.
Eating disorders also can accompany other mental health conditions. Researchers reported in the Journal of Psychiatric Research that individuals diagnosed with an eating disorder are more likely to also have obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Besides finding an effective treatment, relapse is also an ongoing problem. A new study of adolescents with anorexia found that many of them can predict their future weight after discharge from an inpatient treatment program. Clients who expect to lose weight after discharge should receive more intensive aftercare, the researchers note.
Changing how we think of eating disorders
Eating disorders have long been thought of as a problem of the wealthy, especially among white females. However, research shows that disordered eating is also found at lower socioeconomic levels.
Writing in Eating Behaviors, researchers from the University of Minnesota found that women of lower socioeconomic status were more likely to show high body dissatisfaction and unhealthy weight control behaviors, such as skipping meals. Men of low economic status were more likely to engage in extreme behaviors, such as taking diet pills. However, differences between socioeconomic groups decreased with models that adjusted for race and body-mass index.
Michael Lowe, PhD, a professor in Drexel University’s College of Arts and Sciences, has been reevaluating how researchers and the public define dieting and view weight loss. He notes that the greater availability of food in wealthier nations goes against the body’s natural survival drive, making it difficult to control food intake.
Treating eating disorders is a complex, sensitive concern for you and your clients. The right EHR solution can help you track outcomes and make better treatment decisions, increasing your practice’s value.
BestNotes EHR software has been designed specifically for behavioral health providers and their clients, so you both get the results you deserve. Get in touch with us today to learn more.