How virtual treatment for eating disorders is different for adults vs. youth

By Regence
August 28, 2023
virtual ED recovery

An estimated 5.5 million Americans experience an eating disorder each year, and most don’t get treatment. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) defines eating disorders as medical illnesses that create severe changes in a person’s eating behaviors. NIMH emphasizes that eating disorders are not a choice, and people experiencing one can appear healthy while their physical and mental health suffer.

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The most common eating disorders are binge eating disorder, bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa. According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) most eating disorders begin during childhood and are rooted in a combination of genetic, biological, environmental and social factors. By early adulthood an eating disorder can progress into serious, life-threatening disease. Early intervention is critical, so available treatments are primarily tailored to young people.

For both children and adults, treatment is most effective when it addresses all four root factors. Doing that takes a team of specialists, each with expertise in a different factor contributing to the patient’s condition.

Accessing treatment team may be easier through virtual care

Virtual care (telehealth) can make accessing care for many mental health conditions more convenient than seeing a provider in-person. Telehealth enables patients to receive care via phone, video or chat from almost anywhere. And, with a dedicated virtual eating disorder treatment provider such as Equip, it enables patients to conveniently receive that care from a team of specialists.

Equip’s virtual treatment program integrates evidence-based therapies, supported by a dedicated, multidisciplinary team including a therapist, dietitian and medical provider for each patient. In addition, treatment teams include mentors who themselves have recovered from an eating disorder. For children and young adults, Equip also integrates family-based treatment (FBT), in which the patient’s parents play an important role in empowering their recovery. This wraparound approach to care has helped 92% of patients improve, with the goal of achieving lasting recovery at home.

Where adult treatment is different: Peer support groups

Whereas treatment for children and young adults relies heavily FBT, adults don’t always have the same family support systems as children. So Equip’s treatment for adults 25 and older incorporates peer support group classes to supplement the patient’s treatment team. Adults receiving treatment are encouraged to join one or more weekly peer support classes led by Equip clinicians.

Peer support classes are tailored for a diverse range of identities, interests and shared experiences, including patients who identify as Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC), LGBTQ, athletes and more. In these classes, adult patients find support, inspiration and understanding from others like them who are also experiencing an eating disorder. The combination of peer support classes with evidence-based therapies can help adult patients overcome lifelong illness and achieve lasting recovery.

We’re here to help

If you or your loved one needs support for an eating disorder or other mental health condition, we can help you find the behavioral health care option that fits your needs. Most of our health plans offer traditional mental health care providers and virtual treatment options such as Equip, AbleTo Therapy+, Doctor on Demand, Talkspace, Charlie Health and more.

No referral is needed – you can schedule an appointment directly with a provider; visit a virtual provider’s website to request an appointment; or call Customer Service at the number listed on your member ID card to verify your treatment options and get help scheduling an appointment. Regence also provides free language services, including qualified interpreters and information written in languages beyond English, to people whose primary language isn’t English.

Equip is a separate company that provides services to treat eating disorders and co-existing conditions.