Treatment of Anorexia Nervosa

Learn about anorexia treatment, symptoms, causes, and our unique approach to working with eating disorders at Opal.

What is Anorexia Nervosa?

  • A mental health condition with complex origins 
  • Restriction of food intake
  • Body weight lower than one’s natural body weight
  • Intense fear of gaining weight
  • Engaging in behaviors that could affect weight (including but not limited to: restricting food intake, bingeing/purging, laxative/diet pill/diuretic misuse, excessive exercising)
  • One often does not see their body weight/shape the same way others do
  • Attributing self-worth to one’s weight/shape
  • Lack of recognition of the seriousness of lower than natural body weight

What are the signs and symptoms?

Although one could struggle with many of the above signs and symptoms of anorexia nervosa, it can be sometimes difficult to identify when you or someone you love is struggling. A change in one’s patterns, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors with food, weight and exercise could be a sign of something more serious going on.  Due to many culturally normative values around weight and health, anorexia can be difficult to detect.  We encourage having a professional that specializes in eating disorders help you or your loved one get clarity on what is really going on. If you would like to get more information on supporting a loved one, see our advice here.

What you might not know about anorexia.

  • You cannot tell someone is struggling with anorexia by looking at them. Body weight may or may not change due to the eating disorder. 
  • People with anorexia do eat and can have some incidents of over eating and binge eating.
  • Sometimes a person with anorexia may eat a normal amount of food and experience that as a binge. 
  • Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of all psychiatric disorders. 
  • Some athletes can be diagnosed with anorexia due to food restriction in the context of their sport performance goals. 
  • For people who menstruate, restricting food can lead to loss of period and resulting health concerns. This is part of Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S). Learn more about this topic from our podcast. 
  • Anorexia is usually rooted in something other than the way their body looks. There are multiple root causes to anorexia, so the solution is more complex than just eating. 
  • Temperamentally individuals with anorexia tend to have more over-controlled personalities, are rigid in their thinking, rule-following, and perfectionistic.

Check your biases! 

Anorexia nervosa can be life-threatening for anyone that is experiencing it, regardless of body size, race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, gender, sexual orientation, age, ability, religion.

Opal's Approach to theTreatment of Anorexia

The treatment of anorexia is individualized. We take a holistic approach to treatment that allows for healing to be done in community and in individual sessions. We believe eating disorders develop to serve a function for an individual.  Opal’s staff come alongside our clients to better understand those “whys” and find new ways to cope and live life without an eating disorder.  We offer three levels of care at our Seattle clinic. Overall, our treatment model includes: 

  • Individual therapy, nutrition counseling, psychiatry, exercise experientials and family therapy available at the PHP and IOP levels of care. 
  • Health at Every Size, weight-neutral treatment approach 
  • Non-diet approach to food. Meals and snacks provided offer a wide variety of foods (highly processed, fresh, organic, non-organic, home-cooked, frozen, easy to prepare, etc.) 
  • Eating at meals and snacks are done with other clients and staff, as a community.
  • A belief that adequate food intake is a foundational step in recovery. 
  • Exercise + Sport programming, which addresses exercise bulimia, exercise avoidance, and other exercise concerns
  • Radically Open Dialectical Behavioral Therapy as a foundational treatment 
  • Group therapy including body wisdom group, movement group, self-inquiry, process groups, facing fears and more. 
  • Teaching/Didactic groups including Radically Open Dialectical Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Exercise + Sport Didactic, Health at Every Size Didactic, etc.
  • Free, non-clinical lodging for PHP clients to use while in treatment, as space available. 
  • Outpatient groups