Co-occurring disorders, also referred to as comorbidities, are conditions that exist or are diagnosed at the same time. A majority of individuals who come to Walden for eating disorder treatment have at least one “co-occurring” disorder, whether mood disorders, substance use disorders, sexual dysfunction or self-harm. That’s why an integrated treatment approach, addressing both (or multiple) conditions concurrently, is required in many cases.
Common Co-Occurring Disorders with Eating Disorders
We’ve found that people who have eating disorders have typically experienced trauma, a distressing experience such as sexual assault, the death of a loved one, or a serious injury. They often also suffer from depression, anxiety, self-injuring behavior, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Many also have issues with substance abuse. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse found that:
Half of all people with eating disorders abuse drugs or alcohol, compared with 9% of the general population, according to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA).
Up to 35% of people who abuse drugs or alcohol have an eating disorder, compared with 3% of the general population (CASA).
Given the frequency of co-occurring disorders, it’s not surprising that individuals with eating disorders and other psychiatric disorders or addictions have much in common, including similar brain chemistries and environmental experiences such as trauma, physical or sexual abuse, and low self-esteem.
Co-occurring disorders are complex and require an integrated approach, and although they may involve frequent setbacks, there is hope. Treatment that addresses both the eating disorder and other conditions concurrently is often recommended.
Diagnosis of Co-Occurring Disorders
Despite the frequency of co-occurring disorders, many hospitals or clinics admit patients for one, often overlooking others. One reason co-occurring disorders are commonly overlooked can be that individuals diagnosed with addiction or an eating disorder typically are sent to a facility specializing in that condition. Facilities that treat addiction don’t often treat eating disorders and vice versa.
Addressing Co-Occurring Disorders with Eating Disorders
So how do we address co-occurring disorders at Walden? Our approach to addressing co-occurring disorders with eating disorders is personalized, incorporating the treatment, therapies, and skills needed to guide the individual to a full recovery.
We first conduct a complete physical and psychiatric evaluation, including an inventory of drug and alcohol use, by a team that includes a physician, psychiatrist, psychologist, nurse, nutritionist, and social worker.
Our multidisciplinary team of experienced and dedicated doctors, physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, dietitians, counselors, social workers, expressive therapists, and mental health counselors evaluates each individual. The team will then develop a treatment plan that will help address all symptoms co-occurring with a patient’s eating disorder.
Individuals do not proceed straight from illness to recovery, so neither should their treatment. That’s why we have a full continuum of care to treat individuals at every level, no matter the acuity. If at any point, a patient needs to step up or step down, our staff makes the transition as seamless as possible to minimize stress and anxiety. Treatment should adjust to the patient, rather than expecting the patient to adapt to treatment.
To learn more about co-occurring disorders and eating disorder treatment and recovery, visit our blog.
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