Early intervention for eating disorders is crucial for better treatment outcomes. As a result, all healthcare providers should screen every client for an eating disorder.
Did you know? Most clients begin treatment 4 years after the initial disorder onset. For some, even up to 10 years. This delay in treatment allows the eating disorder to worsen. In fact, eating disorders have the highest death rate of any mental health illness. Therefore, delaying treatment increases the possibility of harm.
Next, let’s discuss why early intervention is essential.
Early intervention reduces potential harm of long term physical consequences
First,eating disorders are associated with many physical medical complications. For instance, weakened heart muscle, lab abnormalities, decreased bone density. Along with hormone irregularities, slow digestion/IBS and low energy levels.
The longer a client delays eating disorder treatment, the worse these side effects become. As a matter of fact, they’ll also lengthen the recovery time. In addition, *some* can lead to long term damage. Such as bone loss. However, there is good news. All of these medical complications can be treated, an exception is loss in bone density to an extent. Nutrition rehabilitaion is used to treat eating disorders. Conclusively, the sooner our clients receive treatment, the better the prognosis.
Improved Recovery Outcomes
The sooner a client gets support for their eating disorder, the better the chance for a lasting recovery. Opposingly, the longer a person engages in these behaviors, the more severe the eating disorder becomes. In other words, the client becomes less receptive to treatment with delayed treatment.
Similar to other diseases, the longer you “ignore” it, the worse it gets. For example, if you break your ankle, you’ll want to go to the doctor right away to get a cast or crutches. If you continue to walk on a broken foot, you risk damaging it further. The same logic can be applied to eating disorder recovery. We want our clients to receive the help they need to live full lives.
Bottom line. The earlier treatment begins, the better the outcome for our clients.
As healthcare professionals, we have the capability to properly assess and refer for eating disorders. As previously stated, the sooner we can identify this disease, the better able our clients are to get proper support. In conclusion, early intervention is key.
Interested in reading research on early intervention? (And where I got the information for this blog). I’d recommend checking out these studies and blogs!
- Why Early Intervention for Eating Disorders Is Essential (National Eating Disorder Association)
- “A critical analysis of the utility of an early intervention approach in the eating disorders”
- “Why are we waiting? The relationship between low admission weight and end of treatment weight outcomes”
Helping my clients cultivate meaningful connections and interests outside of their eating disorder is a true passion of mine. I like to think my clients and I are on a team to navigate recovery. I love working with high school and college students as well as athletes seeking to have a better relationship with exercise. I am a proud anti-diet dietitian and work with my clients through a Health At Every Size © and intuitive eating framework.