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Disordered Eating is Increasing, but There Are Plenty of Barriers to Treatment

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.

date:  Sep 17, 2021
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Have Eating Disorders Increased During the Pandemic?

Previously we’ve examined how behavioral health issues, including anxiety, depression, and substance abuse, have increased during the COVID-19 public health emergency. One behavioral health concern that has received less attention, however, is the variety of eating disorders that can affect people of all ages.

Eating disorders can take many forms and show many different symptoms. Some key signs, however, are:
Preoccupation with weight
Fixation on parts of the body
Skipping meals
Forming odd eating habits
Refusing to eat particular food groups

COVID-19 and Eating Disorders

Experts across the United States have reported increased rates of eating disorders since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, calls to their helpline have almost quadrupled, from about 80 calls a month before the pandemic to about 230. This is largely due to feelings of isolation, as well as concerns about an uncertain future, says Executive Director Lynn Slawsky.

The National Eating Disorders Association has also reported a 78-percent increase to its helpline since March 2020. Clinicians have also seen local increases in people seeking help for eating disorders. In California, UCSF has seen a doubling in hospitalizations for eating disorders. Disrupted circumstances, including stockpiling food and supplies and messages from social media, have also worsened eating disorder symptoms.

Treatment for Eating Disorders

The best treatment for eating disorders will depend on the disorder and symptoms involved. It also will involve treating any health problems that the eating disorder has caused. Treatment options include:

Psychological therapy and counseling
Nutrition education
Medical monitoring
Inpatient programs

Researchers continue to study how effective different types of therapies can be for eating disorders. For example, day treatment programs are often promoted as an alternative to inpatient treatment, but are not regularly used. One study looked at 148 patients with various eating disorders who under went 8 weeks of day treatment followed by outpatient treatment in a naturalistic setting. During the treatment phase, patients significantly reduced binge eating, purging, or fasting behavior. These improvements generally remained stable during follow-up. The study was published in Eating and Weight Disorders.

Another study found that music therapy could have potential in treating individuals with eating disorders. Researchers reviewed existing literature on the effect of music in people with anorexia nervosa (AN) and bulimia nervosa (BN). The review was published in Psychiatria Danubina. While additional studies are needed, they found that:

Listening to classical music was found to be beneficial for the food consumption of inpatients with AN.
Group singing also reduced post-prandial anxiety in individuals with AN.
Vodcasts (also called video podcasting or vlogging) that carried positive visual or autobiographical stimuli helped with anxiety and body image for BN patients.
At the same time, watching music videos reinforced preoccupation with physical appearance.

Behavioral health clinicians and addiction treatment providers are struggling to keep up with the increased demand for their services, including treatment for individuals struggling with eating disorders. This is the ideal opportunity to reconsider your practice’s workflow and how you can streamline your operations to be more efficient, increase profitability, and improve client outcomes. Contact BestNotes today to learn about how our EHR and other solutions can help your practice stay on top of demand.

date:  Feb 11, 2021
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