With all different types of eating disorders affecting people, new methods of treatment are being discovered and explored. Treatment for disordered eating varies because of the several types of eating disorders, including the most widely-known: anorexia, bulimia, over-eating, and binge-eating. News recently broke that a virtual reality technology was found useful as a new emerging treatment for eating disorders. This could tremendously aid more eating disordered individuals than before.
Types of Eating Disorders: Virtual Reality
The main concept of the virtual reality treatment for obesity and eating disorders is to treat the sufferer by providing the opportunity to experience tense situations that may prevent them from moving forward in their recovery process. The virtual reality works by putting a headset on and using a control to virtually place themselves in the situations that overwhelm them, so that they can conquer their fears with their licensed therapist as guidance. By virtually encountering difficult situations, the person is given a chance to see how they would react and practice ways to manage their emotions in a healthy way. This type of virtual reality treatment method falls under the category of Experimental Cognitive Therapy, or ECT, for short.
ECT allows the person to identify what kinds of feelings are cycling in their minds in specific situations, in the safest manner, with supervision of a professional. In place of physically and literally living out their fears on their own, this new treatment is said to give the patient the freedom from the concern stemming from other people’s opinions, and because of its pure virtual experience.
The particular format for these virtual treatment sessions follows in the guideline of a 20/20/20 rule. This means that the first 20 minutes may begin with a discussion of the patient’s perception of food and personal body image. Afterwards, the next 20 minutes would be the start of the virtual technology aid. The eating disordered individual would deal with an encounter in the virtual world, which would be beneficial if related in distress to food. The eating disordered patient will be able to remain calm because the virtual world acts as a trial, not an actual reality, of life. In the last 20 minutes of the session, the sufferer and their therapist will have the chance to go over the thought process that occurred and what actually living the situation might feel like.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Other means of treatment for types of eating disorders can include the more frequently referred to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT. This method is another way to reach a patient’s understanding of what they are feeling. CBT differs from ECT because it focuses on both cognitive and behavioral patterns, instead of just one in specific. With the behavioral aspect involved in treatment, a therapist will be able to facilitate the discussion and suggest positive substitutes for the patient to consider practicing in place of old, unhealthy behaviors.
Dr. Giuseppe Riva found after treating several patients, each with different types of eating disorders, that this virtual reality technology worked best when the eating disorder tendencies were linked to body image disorder as well. Since this is still a new therapy, much exploring is still needed for it to reach its fullest extent of usefulness to sufferers from all the many types of eating disorders.Tags: anorexia, anorexia nervosa, bulimia, eating disorder, eating disorders, food addiction