Anorexia nervosa treatment has many facets; there are physical symptoms of malnutrition and extremely low weight, psychological factors such as anxiety and depressions surrounding the disorder, and an emotional and spiritual distortion. The last bit may be the hardest part of anorexia nervosa recovery. One of the difficulties of treating any kind of behavioral health issue, from substance abuse to depression to anorexia treatment, is encompassing medical health, emotional wellbeing, and spirituality into a comprehensive plan which addresses them all. Where medical, and even behavioral, symptoms are codified by medical and psychiatric practitioners, spirituality is a personal journey for every individual, whether they need anorexia treatment or not.
Spiritual Emptiness and Anorexia Nervosa Recovery
The focus at many modern anorexia nervosa treatment centers goes beyond simply treating the symptoms presented by the eating disorder, and instead concentrate on the person’s entire wellbeing. Interviews with clients over the years have come back to a repeating theme; a feeling of spiritual emptiness which they fill with obsessions over their body shape and weight. Comparisons have even been made between a person with anorexia nervosa’s pursuit of a “perfect,” thin body and the religious obsession of, say, the quest for the holy grail.
People of all stripes have an innate need to understand their place in the world and in society. This urge is universal; it’s not associated with any one culture or religion. When that sense of understanding is absent, or rife with uncertainty, an individual’s spiritual search for meaning can focus on anything that gives them a sense of their place in the world, even if that means a distorted view of themselves leading to anorexia treatment.
Central to understanding one’s spirituality and search for an understanding of one’s place in the world, in modern times, is the often destabilizing presence of the media – even more to the point, the way “attractiveness” or “beauty” is portrayed. Every day, all day we see images and video of “beautiful” people on our phones, on TV, at the movies, in print advertisement, and even on social media platforms like Instagram, where being thin and beautiful can be an actual career.
Wellbeing experts at many anorexia nervosa treatment centers have noted that the caloric intake restrictions imposed upon themselves are often a result of an individual’s attempt to reach these unattainable standards of attractiveness. In essence, many of the people undergoing anorexia treatment are trying to understand their place in the world by obsessing over weight and beauty.
Spirituality Comes in Many Forms
Anorexia nervosa treatment centers which work with spiritual wellbeing do not always associate themselves with any one particular religion or denomination. In fact, while religious, faith-based healing programs have their place, quality anorexia nervosa treatment programs usually allow for the wide variety of personal understandings that can fill a person’s spiritual emptiness. Please note, established religions can give spiritual meaning to many people, inside and outside anorexia treatment; however, recognition of the personal nature of the journey to self-discovery requires a non-denominational approach.
The hallmark of spirituality is to understand what life means to you, what you strive to be and what your place in the world is. As related to eating disorders like anorexia nervosa, treatment cannot consist of solely physical and behavioral symptoms.
Look at it this way – if someone was being treated for type II diabetes, would the doctor simply prescribe insulin and walk away? Or would she look at increasing an exercise regimen and nutritional meal planning to address the causes of the symptoms?
A spiritual emptiness can manifest itself in a pattern of disordered behavior such as anorexia nervosa, and like the treatment of the causes of diabetes, a good anorexia nervosa treatment center will incorporate spiritual awareness as a central part of treating the underlying causes.