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Anorexia Treatment Options

SunCloud Health is an outpatient and residential treatment provider for anorexia with multiple locations around Chicago

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Treatment for Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is a life-threatening eating disorder characterized by self-starvation and excessive or extreme weight loss. Read on to learn more about the symptoms and causes, and treatment options available at SunCloud Health—one of the premier outpatient anorexia treatment centers in the Midwest.

What makes SunCloud Health unique?
Unlike all other eating disorder treatment centers, we do not believe that daily consumption of ultra-processed foods is necessary for all forms of recovery. This is just one example of how our individualized treatment model is different from other traditional eating disorder programs that prescribe one generic approach for everyone regardless of their unique disease set.

Anorexia Nervosa: Did you know?

  • At least 30 million people of all ages and gender suffer from an eating disorder in the U.S.
  • 9% of American women suffer from anorexia in their lifetime.
  • 1 in 5 anorexia deaths is by suicide.
  • 13% of women over 50 engage in eating disorder behaviors.
  • Genetics (roughly 50 to 80%), environmental factors, and personality traits all combine to create risk for an eating disorder.
  • About half of people with anorexia have comorbid anxiety disorders, including obsessive-compulsive disorder and social phobia.


Kim Dennis, MD, CEDS, at SunCloud Health discussed Anorexia, the loss of control, long term and short term rewards.

Are you struggling with Anorexia? We can help.

SunCloud Health is led by one of the nation’s most prominent psychiatrists treating eating disorders, substance use, and trauma. Kimberly Dennis, MD, is a leader in the treatment for men and women struggling with anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders as well as co-occurring mental health disorders.

Anorexia Symptoms: How to Tell if a Person has Anorexia Nervosa

Eating disorders are generally defined by an unhealthy preoccupation with food, weight, and other eating or body-related behaviors that interfere with one’s ability to lead a healthy, balanced, and peaceful life. Anorexia Nervosa is a disease where the sufferer starves themselves because of the desire to maintain an unrealistic and unhealthy body image. For someone suffering from anorexia, eating is associated with anxiety, discomfort, terror, and all sorts of physical discomfort, and so they experience an immediate sense of relief and ease in not eating as a short-term gain. However, anorexia can be serious and often include medical and physical health complications which, if left untreated, can be deadly. Men and women of all ages are affected and effective evidence-based treatment has proven that outpatient counseling and therapy can lead to long-term sustainable recovery.

Disordered eating behaviors stand in the way of healthy emotional, social and spiritual development. They prevent the sufferer from living a full and happy life. They can sometimes be difficult to believe or even see at home due to the dangerous and distorted messages we see in the media every day, yet they are injurious and in fact require professional eating disorder treatment.

Behaviors associated with anorexia may include:

  • Refusing to eat in order to maintain low body weight
  • Denial of hunger, even when starving
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Obsession with body size and shape/significantly low body weight
  • Skipping meals to lose weight
  • Making excuses for not eating
  • Eating only a few certain foods considered safe, usually those low in fat and calories
  • Adopting meal or eating rituals, such as cutting food into tiny pieces or spitting food out after chewing
  • Weighing food or closely monitoring food intake
  • Intense fear of gaining weight
  • Taking diet pills to lose or prevent weight gain
  • Developing unhealthy eating habits
  • Cooking elaborate meals for others but refusing to eat

Anorexia Causes: Why Do People Develop Eating Disorders?

The causes of anorexia can be attributed to many factors. While the exact cause remains unsolved, research has shown a correlation between biology, psychology, and environmental factors. Doctors have more recently acknowledged the role genetics play in one’s potential to develop anorexia. However, it’s not clear specifically how. It may be that some individuals have a genetic tendency toward perfectionism, sensitivity, and/or rigidity—all traits associated with anorexia nervosa.

Very frequently, but not always, there are other causes of anorexia, such as psychiatric conditions and/or addictions occurring at the same time. These often exacerbate eating disorders, making recovery more challenging. We refer to this as “co-occurring” mental health issues. We subscribe to the philosophy that when someone has multiple manifestations, there may not be a primary diagnosis, hence co-occurring. These diagnoses may include or other mood disorders, such as:

While there may be a strong argument for the genetic cause of anorexia, at SunCloud, we believe many individuals suffer from anorexia nervosa because pain and trauma often lie at the root of one’s disordered eating behavior. There is emotional pain, spiritual pain, and a deep sense of alienation. To the person suffering, the eating disorder is not the problem but rather an attempt to solve the problem. One of the first questions we help people answer is NOT “Why the behavior?” but rather, “Why the pain?” By targeting the underlying cause(s) of the pain, we help people shift from the self-destructive eating behavior to living a balanced and abundant life at a healthy weight.


Kim Dennis, MD, CEDS, Medical Director, CEO and Co-Founder, discusses how the lose of weight affects the brain’s reward threshold.

How Do You Find Help for Anorexia?

Seeking help for an eating disorder can be a daunting challenge. Anorexia treatment is appropriate for a variety of persons suffering from the disease, and not just the “classic” or “full blown” cases. SunCloud Health provides anorexia treatment while maintaining the client’s dignity and respect.


Kim Dennis, MD, CEDS, Medical Director, CEO and Co-founder at SunCloud Health describes a common misconception with anorexia is that people are in control. In fact they are not, a common characteristic is loss of control.

SunCloud Provides an Individualized Approach to Treating Anorexia

Dr. Kim and the clinical professionals at SunCloud Health have treated thousands of people with eating disorders. Our caring team recognizes that no two people are alike, and it is important to meet the person where they are at. As such, we design a customized care plan designed to meet each of our patient’s needs for anorexia treatment. At SunCloud Health, we treat our patients and their families first and foremost as human beings who courageously come to us in pain seeking help and support. We believe our patients and their families deserve compassion and expertise in the care they receive.

No one fits in to a neat little box and therefore neither should your treatment options. Though we recognize that every primary diagnosis requires specific attention, we do not have separate tracks for our patients. We are focused on getting to the root of the pain, which we believe is causing the self-destructive behavior, and so we find it beneficial to eliminate the customary separate track system. We find that our patients who so often don’t feel as though they fit in anywhere, thrive in this environment as they find common ground with people who may look different from them but who in fact are struggling with and facing very similar issues.

Addressing the medical complications that many eating disorders generally have is extremely important and is always one of the first aspects of the diseases we address during anorexia treatment. Our medical team works seamlessly with our therapists to support people in the lifelong journey of recovery that encompasses physical, emotional, psycho-social, and spiritual growth.

Our program is successful in treating eating disorders because we understand that true long-lasting and sustainable recovery is about more than just restoring healthy weight or helping someone stop purging. It is about addressing the underlying cause(s) of what is leading to the eating disorder. Recognizing that the self- destructive behavior is not a choice but rather a disease, and that the behavior is generally a symptom of some underlying cause, is critical. At SunCloud we do not separate the mind from the body nor do we separate the individual from their environment. We recognize that eating disorders can be complex illnesses, which require a holistic and integrated approach taking in to account and addressing all aspects of one’s life. We also know that if we do not treat the underlying cause of the eating disorder, that while we may help one become abstinent from one addiction, another self-destructive behavior may manifest down the road. Our objective is to target the source of the pain with love and compassion, using the experience of our trained experts, many of whom are in recovery themselves.

We believe the whole family system is a critical component of treatment. Our aim is to help our patients feel supported in all contexts of their lives and this starts with their familial relationships. Family therapy engages all family members in a healing process rather than just focusing on the identified patient. We counsel parents and partners and provide psycho-education and psychological therapy to strengthen families and foster a nurturing home environment.

We are also well versed in diagnosing and effectively treating other aspects of our patient’s mental health that often make it that much more difficult to recover from the eating disorder, otherwise known as co-occurring disorders.

Can SunCloud Health Help Me Overcome a Negative Body Image?

Our approach begins by getting to know the individual and their story to take a complete medical history. Part of this story involves a look into when they first noticed they had a body – oftentimes, this discovery can be negative and can shape a person’s entire view of how they see themselves. 

By diving into this, we go back to when the their beliefs about themselves and their bodies began, and challenge and fact check those beliefs they’ve had so long. Through these discussions, mirror work, and challenging of false beliefs, we are better able to help individuals overcome negative body images. 

What Is the First Step in the Nutritional Evaluation Process at SunCloud Health?

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to treating eating disorders. To begin, we individualize our time with each patient, learning their story and their relationship with food. During this discussion, we ask specific questions about fears they have around good, behaviors they’re struggling with (such as binging or purging), and how those behaviors are affecting their lives right now. We also ask what recovery looks like for you, because it looks different for everyone. Then we can begin to develop a custom plan to help each person realize that vision toward recovery.


Kim Dennis, MD, CEDS, Medical Director, CEO and Co-Founder, answers the question, is SunCloud Health a 12-step program?

Why go to SunCloud Health for Anorexia Treatment?

At SunCloud Health, we are constantly striving for clinician excellence, and for our clients to come in for treatment without ever feeling blamed, stigmatized, shamed, or controlled as they receive help for complex disease packages. Our center is led by one of the nation’s most highly respected psychiatrists in the country who specializes in treating anorexia, substance use disorders and related mood disorders. Kim Dennis, MD, has successfully treated thousands of people struggling with these diseases using an approach that integrates her training and experience as a doctor along with her passion for deep and honest therapy. Our therapists are in recovery in some form or another and this comes from the top. Dr. Kim struggled with both an eating disorder and an alcohol use disorder while studying at The University of Chicago. Her handpicked team has personal knowledge of what it is like to lose control in the disease and we bring that personal knowledge and experience to our evidence-based work every day. And with multiple locations in Chicago and the suburbs, we’re nearby accessible no matter where you live in the area.

In and Out of Treatment Several Times with Little Success? SunCloud’s Integrated Treatment Approach

Oftentimes, individuals are only treated for one diagnosis while other needs and conditions are neglected. We take a different, more holistic approach. Our treatment plans are truly integrated and can be customized to fit each person’s unique needs in a setting that offers a sense of community and chosen family. We employ specific evidence-based approaches that have been proven to help people manage their emotions and develop the tools necessary to recover from eating disorders. Specific examples of anorexia treatment include:

  • Expressive and experiential therapy
  • Skills-based therapy such as:
    • DBT – Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
    • ACT – Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
    • CBT – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Twelve-Step support groups
  • Education about the disease and its effects on you, your mind, your soul and your body
  • Group sessions to teach and practice healthy eating habits, interpersonal skills, and relationship management
  • Meal support, nutrition counseling, and regular consultation with dietary staff, as needed
  • Regular psychiatric consultations and assistance with medication, as needed
  • Individual psychotherapy
  • Family-based therapy sessions, including family participation
  • Yoga and Body Image Therapy

Through this integrated approach, first-time patients can complete a meal plan, stay sober, develop coping skills, and remain on the path to recovery after treatment. 

What to Expect After Completing Treatment at SunCloud Health

As an outpatient and residential treatment center, we continue to support you for as long as we all feel our services are useful. With multiple levels of outpatient care, you may decide to continue to stay connected through one of our aftercare groups or in some cases, you may want to continue to see one of our therapists indefinitely. Though we understand fully that our patients want more health and not necessarily more treatment, we also understand anorexia treatment often requires a life-long commitment to sustainable recovery. Wherever you may be once we have helped you regain things that tend to get lost in the throes of an eating disorder—such as balance, honesty, health (physical, emotional and spiritual) and most importantly yourself—we will work with you to provide a care plan that you can take with you forever, wherever you may go.

Is There Hope for My Recovery?

Absolutely. We are dedicated to helping people discover and be okay with their own truths. Our goal is for patients to break through areas of denial, get a good idea of their struggles with various mental disorders, and understand what they’re up against and how to confront those obstacles. By creating truly individualized plans, patients grow and develop throughout the program, and ultimately go forward knowing who they are while engaging in healthy eating patterns.

Treatment at SCH is really different. I have been to several so I know… Most treatment centers are focused on normalizing eating behaviors, weight restoration (or loss) and that is pretty much it. At SunCloud this stuff all matters but treatment is much deeper and so much more! I have been encouraged to look at what drive me to the disordered eating behaviors in the first place. I have looked at early childhood trauma, I have looked at dysfunctional and unhealthy relationships in my family, I have learned skills to help me respond differently to my thoughts and feelings and most importantly I have learned that I am not alone in my journey. Dr. Kim and her team genuinely care. This place is special. Thank you! I suggest seeking treatment at SunCloud!!!!

~ SCH patient

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