Eating Disorder Treatment and Recovery

If you or a loved one is suffering from an eating disorder, we can help you find a specialised treatment programme that is right for you. Our counsellors are here to help you today.



    Engaging in Eating Disorder behaviors can offer a temporary escape from emotions, whether positive or negative, for individuals. Recognising the problem and its potential consequences can be challenging, especially when the impact may not be immediately noticeable. Seeking input from loved ones and taking their concerns seriously is a crucial step in acknowledging the effects of an Eating Disorder on one’s well-being.
    Specialised treatment programs or therapy sessions offer a structured approach to overcoming Eating Disorder challenges, particularly for individuals with severe cases. Inpatient rehab and counselling services can help individuals navigate triggers, manage cravings and prevent potential setbacks on the road to recovery.

    How are Eating Disorders Treated?

    Eating Disorder treatment involves a comprehensive approach that may include therapy, nutrition counselling, medical care and support from loved ones. Helping a loved one or family member acknowledge their disorder and seeking professional help is crucial. Finding the best treatment services for Eating Disorder is important, such as outpatient therapy, residential treatment programs or hospitalization if necessary. Admission into an Eating Disorder counselling program tailored to the individual’s needs is essential for successful recovery. Aftercare and therapy are vital components in maintaining progress and preventing relapse. Overall, a holistic treatment plan combined with ongoing support and therapy is key in effectively treating Eating Disorders.

    How are Eating Disorders Diagnosed?

    Diagnosing Eating Disorders involves a comprehensive process in rehab, including addiction screening, at-risk individual identification, detailed assessments of Eating Disorder use and medical and psychiatric evaluations. Diagnostic criteria from manuals like DSM-5 or ICD-10 are applied to assess functioning, risk factors and readiness for change, leading to a personalised treatment plan. Continuous monitoring and follow-up support are also provided to ensure long-term success in Eating Disorder treatment.

    Does My Partner/Loved One Have an Eating Disorder Problem?

    Identifying an eating disorder in a loved one or family member can be a challenging task. Look for warning signs such as drastic weight changes, obsession with body image, constant talk about food or dieting, secretive behaviour around meals, extreme exercise routines and a distorted perception of one’s body shape or size. Other indications may include frequent trips to the bathroom after meals, social withdrawal, anxiety or depression and unusual food rituals. It is crucial to approach the situation with empathy, understanding and support. Consult a medical professional or therapist who specialises in eating disorders for a proper diagnosis and guidance on how to help your loved one.

    What To Do Next?

    When a loved one or family member is struggling with an Eating Disorder problem, it is crucial to seek guidance from a professional Eating Disorder counsellor. Dealing with this issue can lead to relationship strain, codependency, enabling behaviors and the experience of mixed toxic emotions among family members. By seeking the help of a qualified professional, you can navigate these challenges more effectively and address the underlying causes of the disorder. Whether it’s through therapy, support groups or other treatment options, a professional counsellor can provide the necessary guidance and support to help your loved one on their process towards recovery. Remember, seeking professional help is essential in order to provide the best possible environment for your loved one’s healing process.

    Regular therapy sessions provide ongoing support and guidance for individuals on their process to recovery. These sessions create a safe space for open communication about challenges and progress. Therapists work to address underlying factors contributing to an Eating Disorder, such as stress from relationships or work to promote self-awareness and develop healthy coping strategies for maintaining overall well-being during the healing process.


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    Our treatment for eating disorders offers a blend of medical management and psychological therapy. We focus on addressing the physical health aspects while simultaneously providing psychological support to tackle the root causes of the eating disorder.

    If you or a loved one is suffering from an eating disorder, we can assess which addictions treatment clinic will provide you with the most appropriate and specialised programme for your individual needs.

    This is usually managed in the context of a 12 step programme where the disorder is treated as a disease which can be halted. The primary care eating disorder treatment concentrates on establishing a healthy relationship with food and on healthy eating patterns.

    The treatment also involves individual counselling and group therapy. Discovering you are not alone is a important first part of any addiction treatment programme, as being actively addicted is an immensely lonely place. Knowing that you are no longer alone and that there are others who have undergone the same humiliations and feeling so ashamed before finding a stable, useful, contented recovery is very important.

    Eating Disorder Treatment

    The eating disorder treatment at the clinics we work with is founded on evidence based techniques which are supported by research and have a proven track record. This treatment involves many different people such as psychologists, social workers and occupational therapists.

    This treatment method has similarities with the 12 step method and includes one on one counselling, focused group therapy, lectures, holistic therapies such as yoga, dancing and meditation, 12-step facilitation and spiritual guidance.

    Rehabs in other cities of South Africa.

    Orthorexia Nervosa is an uncommon Eating Disorder

    The prefix ‘ortho’ means correct, right or true. Somebody who has Orthorexia Nervosa has an unhealthy obsession with eating only pure and healthy foods. Of course, eating healthily is a good idea but for people with this illness, their obsession with eating only the right foods can lead to them having serious negative consequences and even starvation. An anorexic has a desire to be thin and loses his/her appetite as a result, an orthorexic has a desire to only eat very specific types of food. Both of these eating disorders can result in dramatic weight loss and require.

    The condition is known as ‘Orthorexia Nervosa’ was first described by Dr. Steven Bratman in 1997. This diagnostic category is usually viewed by psychiatrists as being a variety of anorexia nervosa.

    The chief difference between orthorexia and anorexia nervosa is the motivation for a person not to eat, although the end result is often very similar. An eating disorder treatment center should be able to accurately diagnose this eating disorder where it occurs.

    Scientific Eating Disorder treatment

    There have been a number of diets over the years. These diets come into fashion and dictate ideas about what is healthy and what is not. Diets such as the Atkins diet restrict carbohydrates to a bare minimum teach people to restrict their dietary intake to very specific foods. Some of these diets lead to quite unusual demands on their adherents. An eating disorder treatment program is not about fashion or fads – it offers a truly scientific and objective view based on an assessment of the client’s nutritional needs.

    Eating Disorder Treatment

    Orthorexics are similar to people with other eating disorders in the way that they subsume their entire self-worth into their eating practices. Just like people with anorexia or bulimia the orthorexic may become pathologically fixated with food. Because they are unable to feel good about themselves their entire life becomes controlled by their eating. Often a person with an eating disorder will feel guilty and ashamed if they are unable to adhere to the “rules” they have set up for themselves. Effective eating disorder treatment helps a person to escape this self-made prison by identifying the rules and challenging the faulty thinking that led to their creation.

    An eating disorder treatment program helps a person to examine this relationship with food and to disrupt the cycle of obsession with food. People with an active eating disorder will often think about food every minute of the day. An eating disorder treatment program will help them to rethink how their daily routine so that it is no longer centered exclusively on their food.

    Anorexia Nervosa vs Orthorexia Nervosa

    Where people with anorexia or bulimia might be focused on how much they eat, the orthorexic is focused on the quality of the food they eat. They may initially start eating healthily for legitimate health reasons or common allergies. If they start feeling good about themselves as a result of this change in the diet they may be motivated to start introducing more dietary improvements. Some people become so fixated on their new healthy diet that they are unable to pay proper attention to other aspects of their life. The orthorexic may ultimately decide to starve to death rather than eating impure food that might be contaminated with impurity.

    At the moment there is no firm understanding as to the etiology or causes, of eating disorders. It is thought that as with many other illnesses a combination of genetics, environmental conditions (like family dynamics) and temperament (like coping styles) are responsible for producing an eating disorder. Eating disorders are far more common in females than in males but recently there are more males being diagnosed.

    Anorexia can be treated in a three-phase approach that firstly restores the weight that was lost to severe dieting; secondly treats the psychological issues that underlie the eating disorder and thirdly provides life skills and strategies to improve the long-term prognosis of the sufferer. An early diagnosis will improve the success rate of eating disorder treatment.

    Psychiatric medication can be used after the person with anorexia has established a healthy weight. Certain selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) that are better known for their anti-depressant qualities have been shown to be helpful for weight maintenance and to help with some of the mood disturbances that anorexia creates.

    Helping an anorexic to regain their weight can be quite difficult because in the early phases of treatment the anorexic is often resistant to being treated. Often this has to be performed in an inpatient hospital setting that offers close supervision and access to emergency medical services. Intravenous feeding is sometimes used to help anorexics recover from malnutrition. Once the patient has been cleared by doctors they are ready to join the psychotherapeutic eating disorder treatment program. The therapeutic approaches used in eating disorder treatment are usually based on a cognitive-behavioural or interpersonal viewpoint and will vary slightly from center to center. Family work is sometimes included as a component of eating disorder treatment.

    Bulimia Eating Disorder Treatment

    Bulimia treatment focuses on reducing or eliminating the cycle of binge eating and purging. Bulimia eating disorder treatment uses the same basic elements as that used for anorexia, though will take a different approach. A bulimia treatment program will enforce a strict routine of meals to help patients establish a pattern of eating regularly without feeling guilty. Exercise will be limited as this is sometimes a method that some bulimics use to purge. The psychotherapeutic aspect of bulimia eating disorder treatment will include group therapy, one-to-one therapy and other forms of therapy. Typically these therapies will be offered in the paradigm of either the cognitive-behavioural or interpersonal counselling approaches.

    Denial is often a strong feature of a person suffering from an eating disorder. It is often quite difficult to persuade somebody to enter treatment. The consequences of leaving an eating disorder untreated can be very serious – if you would like information about finding an eating disorder treatment center near you, please contact us.


    Obesity is a condition that can lead to serious and even life-threatening complications. People who have untreated obesity are at high risk of developing depression or anxiety disorders. It can also lead to the person developing an eating disorder. People who are obese have a high risk of developing serious medical conditions like hypertension, stroke, high cholesterol, heart disease and diabetes. Obesity is implicated in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people each year. Appropriate treatment doesn’t only help individuals to feel good about themselves, it can save lives.

    Obese people often feel a strong sense of shame and are sometimes unable to connect properly with people. With a proper therapeutic intervention, the individual can be helped to learn new skills and to confront the harmful shame. The person will be helped to deal with the psychological issues that are leading to obesity and also given practical lessons on how to reach a healthy weight. The aim is not only to deal with the physical problem but also to address the emotional problems that obesity creates.

    Obesity is usually defined as being more than 20% over your ideal body weight. This ideal weight is based on your age, gender and how much exercise you do. Having a body-fat percentage of more than 30% for women or 25% for men is usually considered a symptom of obesity.

    Obesity has many contributing factors that work together to produce it. These factors include genetic predisposition, individual rate of metabolism, developmental factors, personality factors, environmental factors, how active the person is and their general lifestyle. For some people, obesity results from using food as a way to soothe and cope with unpleasant emotions like stress, anxiety or helplessness.

    Obesity is treated on several levels which reflects the multi-factor way in which it develops. A comprehensive obesity treatment program will have a biological element to help the person return to a healthy weight and deal with the symptoms of hypertension, high cholesterol, etc. It will include a psychological element to address the core emotions like depression and anxiety that influence obesity. It will also take a systemic approach to view the patient in the context of his/her family and cultural setting to help address dynamics that lead to obesity. Proper treatment should be conducted by a professional in a treatment clinic who will recommend a further action plan for treating this problem.

    Psychological causes of an Eating Disorder

    Some people think that the psychological basis of an eating disorder rests in the individual’s desire to have control. Teenagers may feel that they have no control over their lives – their body, friendships and self-perception are all changing rapidly as they develop into adults. It is thought that teenagers under stress and feeling out of control might turn to an eating disorder as a way to regain a sense of control over themselves. A Cape Town eating disorder treatment program will carefully examine the root causes of the problem and establish a clear guideline on how to effectively combat it.

    There is no simple way to tell if somebody has orthorexia by just looking at what they eat. Each person develops their own understanding of what is healthy. Sometimes one person’s healthy diet is another person’s poison. Ultimately the signs and symptoms revolve around the obsession and the degree to which it interferes with normal life. An eating disorder treatment will carefully assess the nature of the client’s eating to determine whether it is problematic or not and provide useful input on how to achieve a really healthy balance.

    Medical Complications Caused By Eating Disorders

    Eating disorders can disrupt the normal functioning of the body and cause medical complications. There are a number of different sorts of eating disorders, some of which you can read about in an earlier post.

    People who use laxatives to stimulate bowel movements or frequently vomit as a way of purging are at risk of developing heart problems and other complications.

    People who have binge eating disorder are usually overweight. Obesity leads to its own medical complications such as hypertension, unhealthy cholesterol levels, diabetes and susceptibility to a number of diseases and cancers. Individuals suffering from this disorder often present with depression.

    People starving themselves as a result of anorexia nervosa can damage their internal organs. The human body tries to protect itself from starvation by dropping certain functions: The menstrual cycle stops; breathing rate, pulse rate and blood pressure all drop; thyroid function slows down. A starving person skin will dry up and become covered in a soft hair called lanugo. They may feel thirsty all the time and need urinates frequently. This dehydration contributes to constipation. Because the starving person has lost body fat he/she might not be able to regulate body temperature effectively and will especially struggle in the cold.

    Anorexia nervosa is also associated with a number of other symptoms such as mild anaemia, dizziness, swollen joints and a loss of muscle mass. Their bones may decalcify which leaves them brittle and easily broken. People suffering from anorexia nervosa may also have irregular heart rhythms or even have heart failure. Structural changes in the brain can lead to personality changes in people suffering from anorexia nervosa.

    People who have an eating disorder are at a much greater risk of having another psychiatric disorder as well. There are strong links between eating disorders and depression, anxiety and substance abuse. Suicidal ideation (thoughts about suicide) is also more commonly found in people with an eating disorder than in the general population.

    Anorexia nervosa is sometimes accompanied by obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) which is a mental illness characterised by intrusive thoughts that lead the person to compulsively repeat behaviours – often with the belief that this will stave off disaster. People with anorexia usually have a compliant personality but may show incidents of rage and hostility. They will often withdraw from social situations as a result of the extreme shame they feel about themselves.

    Patients who present for treatment from Bulimia Nervosa are often found to have severely damaged their bodies. Problems occur in the stomach, heart and throat. Many such patients show signs of malnutrition as a result of purging important nutrients and minerals. Bulimics will sometimes have “chipmunk cheeks” as a result of glandular swelling near their cheeks in response to the acid in their vomit. The menstrual period of people suffering from bulimia nervosa may also be disrupted and they will typically lose their sexual appetite.

    Bulimia nervosa is sometimes accompanied by addictions to substances or behaviours. Drug or alcohol abuse is fairly common in people with this disorder. As is the case with anorexia nervosa people with this illness are at a higher risk of presenting with other psychiatric problems. Because of their poor impulse control and these psychiatric complications they are at higher risk of suicide than the general population.

    It is clear that eating disorders present a number of medical problems. A comprehensive eating disorder treatment program will address the individual on each of the levels that are affected by this illness. Co-occurring disorders should be treated integratively in order to improve treatment outcomes. Early identification and treatment of an eating disorder may help to prevent serious medical problems from developing.

    Eating Disorders in Men

    Despite common misconceptions that it is only women who suffer from eating disorders, there are also many men who are diagnosed with this illness. In fact, many men suffer from this illness without realising it according to research published in 2001 by Dr. Arnold Anderson of the University of Iowa (article linked here). Dr. Anderson also found that men who have an eating disorder show worse physical symptoms than do women.

    Men with an eating disorder are expected to have a significantly lower bone density than women. This loss of bone density is caused by severe weight loss and deficiencies in essential nutrients. A lack of calcium can lead to a serious decline in bone mineral density which leaves the bones brittle and easily breakable.

    Dr. Anderson performed an ongoing study of people who had been admitted to the Eating Disorder treatment clinic at the University of Iowa. Over a period of seven years, he monitored a total of 380 people. Men represented 14% of this sample size. The team studied three types of eating disorders: anorexia nervosa, anorexia nervosa with bingeing and purging and bulimia nervosa.

    As might be expected all of the patients with eating disorders presented with BMD deficiencies, however, men showed a statistically significant lower bone density than did women. The male hormone testosterone was found to be lower in men who had been suffering from an eating disorder. Researchers suspected that there is a link between the lack of this hormone and the drop in BMD.

    Because one of the consequences for a low BMD is brittle bones patients need to be warned about high impact sporting activities. Patients with an eating disorder should be helped to develop an exercise routine with reduced impact. Ask your physician about using the moderate weight-bearing exercise.

    Eating disorders are often blamed on the media depiction of a “thin ideal” person. In fact, many of the models (men and women) are below a healthy weight. By creating this unrealistic ideal the media may be helping to create the guilt and shame that drives the process of developing an eating disorder. The British Medical Association has recommended that the fashion industry try to set a better example by using models who are a healthy weight.

    Emotional Eating

    Emotional eating can sabotage your efforts to get in shape and reach a healthy weight.

    Emotional eating refers to overeating or making poor food choices in response to emotional difficulties. Studies on the effect of stress on women who have a binge eating disorder showed that those who experienced stress were more likely to binge eat.

    It is key to note that it is the experience of stress and not the actual event itself. That is to say, it is more important how we interpret and respond to an event than the actual event itself. Some people are able to deal with stressful situations in a proactive manner and don’t experience them as negatively as others.

    Some theories suggest that this is related to our internal belief of how well we can cope with things: If we believe that we are highly capable then we are less likely to be thrown by stressful events.

    Other people experience stressful situations as being overwhelming and may stay focused on the problems before them rather than mobilizing for a solution.

    Reclaim Your Life from Eating Disorders

    So it seems that your method of coping with stress is an important way to help you retain control over your eating. If you cope well with stress and believe that you can overcome the obstacles in front of you then you are less likely to struggle with stressors.

    This means that you won’t be thrown into the position where eating becomes the only way that you can “medicate” your emotions.

    Positive Thinking Avoids Emotional Eating

    Research findings suggest that people who respond positively to a stressful situation are able to avoid emotional eating 85% of the time. Responding positively means thinking positive thoughts and looking for constructive action to effectively deal with the situation. This implies that when faced with a stressful situation we should consciously remind ourselves that we are capable of dealing with it and then deliberately follow a problem-solving approach to deal with it. Looking for support from friends and family is also a good way to start feeling that a problem can be overcome. An effective eating disorder treatment program will help you to learn these skills and practice them in your everyday life so that you are freed from the compulsion to eat on your emotions.

    A stressful situation doesn’t have to be a big thing, it can be any unpleasant emotion such as boredom or frustration. These “micro stressors” can quickly add up and lead to a person feeling that emotional eating is the only way to distract themselves from the anxiety surrounding these emotions. Nutritionists have suggested that it is key to be able to differentiate between biological hunger and other urges to eat. They say that it is key to identify the feelings and needs behind the non-biological urge to eat. By becoming aware of how a subconscious need is being converted to hunger by the brain and body you will be able to choose another way to satisfy this need. For example, you could take a relaxing walk on the beach or spend time taking a long bubble bath.

    Problems of Emotional Eating

    People can consume more calories than they because of emotional eating.

    These excess calories lead to them picking up weight which exposes them to a number of associated health risks such as diabetes and cancer.

    Choosing healthy sized portions of food that is balanced and nutritious is a good way to improve your overall health. While you are in the eating disorder treatment program you will learn how to select the foods that will promote your health and allow you to meet your nutritional needs without falling back into the trap of emotional eating.

    You can gain freedom from emotional eating through therapy.

    Psychotherapy will help you to identify the root causes that cause you to eat on your emotions and a balanced nutritional meal set out by a dietitian will restore your metabolism to normal and redress past imbalances. Like any other eating disorder, it is the patient’s willingness, courage and commitment to change that will determine the success of the eating disorder treatment program.

    Let We Do Recover Help You

    Unsure which type of addictions clinic is best for you? Unsure if this is the best type of addiction treatment for your particular problem? Give us a call and we will help you select the right programme and the right addiction clinic for you.

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