It’s an upsetting question posed by a New York Times piece, which delves into the proliferation of for-profit, specialty eating disorder clinics—posh rehab centers and chains that offer yoga and spa retreat amenities while tackling a health issue that is notoriously difficult to cure. At the crux of the investigation is the question of whether the focus of treatment goes by the wayside when money is a more prominent focus.
In a lot of ways, eating disorder (ED) treatment is where addiction treatment was a generation or two ago. A deep lack of understanding as to both the physiological and psychological causes of the disease, plus the manifold variety of ways in which it manifests in individual cases, makes for incredibly scattershot and ineffective treatment. The only ED treatment facility I’d be okay with sending a loved on to is one that says, “Look, we know fuck-all about this right now because no one can figure out how to design a treatment study that doesn’t break all the rules of medical ethics. But we have, at least, some pretty good basic knowledge about the human psyche, addictive behaviors, and our nutritional requirements. So, we’re going to do our best to find and deal with the root causes of this disease, using the things we do know, always being guided by compassion and the well-being of the whole person. If and when we learn something new that suggests we should change our approach, we’re 100% open to that.” If anyone suggests religion as an answer, or punitive models of behavior modification, run the fuck away.