Frequently Asked Questions About Eating Disorder Treatment

How do I know if I have an eating disorder?

People who suffer from eating disorders may use food to control serious, and at times, overwhelming emotions. The most common symptoms include unhealthy preoccupation with food, weight or body image. In these situations, it’s not about the food and it’s important to seek the help of a professional in assessing whether or not an eating disorder is present. One call can make the difference in answering that very difficult question. A professional assessment is the fastest way to answering that or in expediting a healthy recovery process.

What are the danger of eating disorders?

  • Prolonged restriction of caloric intake (dieting) can cause
  • Anemia, which can result in lower energy levels, shortness of breath with mild exertion, and depression.
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms including bloating and constipation.
  • Cardiovascular consequences such as low blood pressure (fainting spells) and a slowing of heart rate.
  • A loss of menstruation resulting in infertility, osteoporosis and increased risk of bone fractures.
  • Electrolyte disturbances increased risk of cardiac rhythm disturbances, heart failure and seizures.
  • Dermatological effects such as hair loss, dry skin and fine hair growth on body.

Purging (vomiting) alone or in conjunction with binging can cause:

  • Erosion of tooth enamel leading to cavities and dental problems.
  • Retention of water, swollen glands and swelling of extremities.
  • Dehydration which increases risk of kidney damage.
  • Electrolyte disturbances potentially leading to cardiac rhythm disturbances, heart failure and seizures.
  • Ulcers in stomach and esophagus along with rupture of esophagus.

Binging can lead to:

  • The development of overweightness and obesity, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol and diabetes, all of which are risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
  • Joint damage resulting in arthritis.
  • Damage to stomach and esophagus.

I haven’t had an eating disorder very long. Do I need such serious treatment?

The duration is less important than the seriousness of the symptoms. Research shows early intervention is key to a healthy recovery. Depending upon a full evaluation by a specialist in eating disorders, starting with the appropriate level of care sooner than later can have a dramatic effect on the recovery time as well as any long term effects (i.e. developmental issues with adolescents).

How is Insight eating disorder treatment different?

There are many great therapists in the Chicago area but sometimes a staff with as much diversity and depth as Insight can be the key to solving a particularly difficult challenge.

Scheduling can also be difficult especially when family members are contributing their time with a therapist. Insight has the resources to push therapy, groups and programs into the evenings and weekends making the process of getting help easier.

What is the Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) and the Partial Hospitalization (PHP)?

Both programs are more intensive than regular office visits with the Intensive Outpatient Program (PHP) meeting a minimum of 2 days per week of 3 hours of group therapy and the Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) with 6-8 hours of group therapy on at least 5 days per week.

Scheduling flexibility is a key component in making both programs as accessible as possible.

How quickly will I be able to see a therapist for an assessment?

1 - 5 days after first calling Insight is the typical time for assessment.

What should I do if I think my friend has an eating disorder?

  • Express your concern about her overall well being.
  • Share honestly what you have noticed in simple and brief terms.
  • Encourage your friend to get an evaluation or treatment or continue treatment.
  • Volunteer to go with your friend to a support group, evaluation or therapy.
  • Avoid being competitive with your friend around weight, shape, appearance, grades, or relationships, etc.
  • Be a good listener but avoid feeling guilty or responsible for your friend's eating disorder.
  • Ask him or her what kind of support feels best.
  • Model tolerant and respectful attitudes toward individuals of all shapes and sizes.
  • Remind yourself that you cannot fix your friend's eating disorder.

How much exercise is appropriate?

The American College of Sports Medicine publishes guidelines for safe and effective exercise.

  • Adults should average 150 to 250 minutes per week.
  • Exercise sessions should number three to five per week.
  • Moderate intensity should range between 50 and 70 percent of maximum aerobic capacity.
  • One or two days per week without vigorous exercise is advised.
  • If you have a change of mood or increased worry on the no exercise days, it is recommended that you seek additional evaluation.

What occurs during the admission process?

An assessment is conducted by an Insight Staff Therapist, and includes a review of your symptoms, mood, background, and treatment history. For adolescents, we will need to meet with a parent, as well. It takes about 2 hours, and will be scheduled at the office location most convenient for you.

Following the assessment, the assessing Staff Therapist will consult the treatment team in order to determine eligibility for the program and to make recommendations for your treatment, which may include some combination of Intensive Outpatient (IOP), individual psychotherapy, family therapy, medical evaluation, nutrition therapy, and/or medication evaluation; in some cases, depending on the level of care needed, an outside referral may be provided.

All new patients are required to have a medical evaluation and a nutrition assessment before beginning the Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) or Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP); these referrals can be provided. Once your start date has been determined, our Billing Coordinator contacts your insurance company to obtain pre-certification for treatment. You will also be assigned a point person, an Insight Staff Therapist, who will be available to help guide you, as you go through the PHP or IOP.

How long will I stay in the Partial Hospitalization Program or the Intensive Outpatient Program?

Length of treatment is determined individually with each patient according to their needs. We generally suggest a six-week course of treatment to start, and the average length of stay in the IOP is about three to four months.

What happens when I finish the Partial Hospitalization (PHP) or Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP)?

Your treatment coordinator will help you plan for follow-up care. In many cases, you will continue regular sessions with your individual therapist, and you may also wish to continue ongoing nutrition and/or psychiatric care. Other recommendations and referrals will be made as needed.

How are meals conducted in the Partial Hospitalization and Intensive Outpatient Programs?

Meals are planned and facilitated by an Insight Registered Dietitian and are designed to be an enjoyable experience of "normal" eating. Our nutritional philosophy is that there are no good or bad foods, and every effort is made to support patients in their attempts to grow comfortable with a wide range of food options.