Cape Cod Times
March, 2018

HYANNIS — Walden Behavioral Care has opened an intensive outpatient eating disorders clinic on Barnstable Road that officials with the Waltham-based chain say is the first of its kind on Cape Cod.

The Walden Clinic in Hyannis is offering 3½-hour sessions three nights a week for adults and adolescents suffering from eating disorders including anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder, said Walden marketing and communications manager Natalie Cohen.

“What we provide is a more intense structural component” as compared to one-hour therapy sessions, Cohen said.

The outpatient program incorporates the use of cognitive, dialectic and — for adolescents — family behavioral therapies to break unhealthy eating patterns and replace them with something new, Cohen said.

The new clinic also plans to open a partial hospitalization program as early as this summer if there’s enough demand, Walden officials said.

The Hyannis clinic is the latest in the Walden chain to open in Massachusetts, according to Walden officials.

The behavioral health care organization operates eating disorder outpatient clinics, inpatient units and residential services in 13 cities and towns in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Georgia. Off-Cape, the closest partial hospitalization and outpatient treatment program is located in Braintree.

“We pride ourselves in providing treatment close to home,” Cohen said.

While individual therapists and nutritionists on the Cape specialize in eating disorders and offer counseling, the sessions are usually for one hour once a week and are not as intensive as the thrice-weekly outpatient program offered by Walden, which runs for six to eight weeks, Walden officials said.

It’s important to provide follow-up care in the community for individuals who are suffering from eating disorders and may be returning to the Cape from hospitalization or residential programs located in the Boston area or beyond, Walden officials said.

“It’s really, really hard to get better from an eating disorder,” Walden program director Kimberly Wick said.

“It’s a mental illness. It’s not like somebody chooses it. It’s not becoming vegan,” Wick said.

Eating disorders are associated with an increased risk of premature death, including sudden death from cardiovascular complications, according to the National Institutes of Health.

“Anorexia is the No. 1 most lethal mental illness,” Wick said.

In addition to anorexia, bulimia and binge eating, eating disorders that can impact the quality of a person’s life and cause nutritional deficiencies include orthorexia, an extreme fixation over the quality and purity of food, and avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID), also known as extreme picky eating, Walden officials said.

Eating disorders are considered problematic when they start to impact health or “day-to-day functioning,” Cohen said.

A person with orthorexia or ARFID, for instance, may start to isolate and avoid social occasions to limit exposure to certain kinds of food, she said.

While nobody knows the exact cause of an eating disorder, many experts believe it takes a cluster of events or conditions to set one in motion.

A genetic link to eating disorders coupled with anxiety or depression and a stressor such as trauma or bullying could lead to food refusal or binging and purging, Cohen said.

“None of these things in isolation are going to cause an eating disorder,” she said. It’s “a perfect storm of all these different things coming together.”

The Walden Clinic in Hyannis, which held an open house Thursday night, is conducting patient evaluations for the intensive outpatient program, Cohen said. The program accepts most insurances, she said.