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Last Reviewed: January 5th, 2023
Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses characterized by abnormal eating behaviors and distorted thoughts about food, weight, and body image. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), eating disorders affect about 3% of the U.S. population and are more common among females than males. There are several different types of eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder.
Social workers can play a vital role in the treatment of individuals with eating disorders. They are often involved in the initial assessment, diagnosis, and treatment planning process, as well as providing ongoing support and monitoring progress. They may also work with the individual’s family to provide education and support, and may make referrals to other professionals, such as registered dietitians or psychiatrists, as needed.
Social workers are trained to help individuals address the underlying issues that may be contributing to their eating disorder, such as trauma, low self-esteem, or difficulty with relationships.
It is difficult to estimate the percentage of social workers compared to other healthcare professionals who work with individuals with eating disorders, as this may vary depending on the specific setting and location. However, social workers are often an important part of the healthcare team that helps individuals with eating disorders. They may work in hospitals, outpatient clinics, schools, or private practice, and may collaborate with other healthcare professionals such as doctors, nurses, nutritionists, and psychiatrists to provide comprehensive care to individuals with eating disorders.
The social worker will conduct an initial assessment to gather information about the individual’s eating habits, physical health, mental health, and overall functioning.
An initial assessment for someone with an eating disorder typically involves a comprehensive evaluation of the individual’s physical, emotional, and social functioning. The purpose of the assessment is to gather information about the individual’s symptoms, behaviors, and medical history related to their eating disorder, as well as their overall physical and mental health.
The initial assessment may include the following steps:
After the initial assessment, the mental health professional will make a diagnosis based on the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). To be diagnosed with an eating disorder, an individual must meet certain criteria for one of the following disorders: anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or binge eating disorder.
Once a diagnosis has been made, the social worker will work with the individual to develop a treatment plan that addresses their specific needs.
A treatment plan is a detailed document that outlines the specific interventions and activities that an individual will participate in as part of their treatment for an eating disorder. The purpose of the treatment plan is to ensure that the individual receives the care and support they need to manage their disorder and achieve their recovery goals.
The treatment plan should be developed by the mental health professional who is overseeing the individual’s care, in collaboration with the individual and their family members, if applicable. It should be based on the results of the initial assessment and diagnostic evaluation, and should take into account the individual’s specific needs and goals related to their eating disorder.
The treatment plan should include information about the following:
The treatment plan should be reviewed and adjusted as needed based on the individual’s progress and any changes in their needs or circumstances. The mental health professional will work with the individual to monitor their progress and make any necessary adjustments to the treatment plan to ensure that it is meeting their needs and helping them achieve their treatment goals.
The social worker will regularly monitor the individual’s progress and make adjustments to the treatment plan should be reviewed and adjusted as needed based on the individual’s progress and any changes in their needs or circumstances. The mental health professional will work with the individual to monitor their progress and make any necessary adjustments to the treatment plan to ensure that it is meeting their needs and helping them achieve their treatment goals.
When the individual has made significant progress and is able to maintain their recovery, the social worker will work with them to develop a plan for maintaining their progress and may recommend a referral to a lower level of care or no treatment at all.
The following are a few websites and organizations that provide information and resources about eating disorders:
These websites provide a range of information about eating disorders, including symptoms, causes, treatments, and resources for support. They also often have information about how to get help if you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder.