REXBURG — A new clinic is hoping that by opening its doors it can help more eastern Idahoans struggling with eating disorders.
The Rexburg Eating Disorder Center, located at 101 E. Main Street Suite 211, opened in early April and is a partner company with Integrated Counseling and Wellness. Liz Stephenson, clinical director of the Rexburg Eating Disorder Center, told EastIdahoNews.com she’s been the only certified eating disorder specialist in east Idaho and the clinic is trying to change that.
Stephenson’s two clinicians are fully licensed but are working towards their eating disorder certification status, which typically takes three years to obtain. She mentioned there’s a difference between being certified and a counselor who says they can treat eating disorders.
“It’s a lot of additional training and education,” Stephenson explained. “We can assess for a higher level of care, whether or not they need to (be hospitalized), and we treat on an outpatient basis here. … It’s a big deal if you see the word certified eating disorder specialist.”
The clinic’s specialization is eating disorders but it also treats general mental health issues that are often seen with eating disorders such as depression, anxiety, relationship problems and OCD, Stephenson said.
Currently, the average age of an eating disorder onset — meaning when it’s caught, not necessarily when it starts — is 12, according to Stephenson. Eating disorders have the second-highest mortality rate of all mental health disorders, and Stephenson said there are two reasons why a person would die from an eating disorder.
“One is suicide and the second is organ failure,” she said. “Someone who looks like they’re in a normal size body can be just as medically compromised and in as much danger physically as someone who is emaciated.”
Stephenson believes people don’t perceive how dangerous eating disorders are, especially in younger kids.
“When they’re not getting enough nutrition … their brain development, emotional development and personality development all slow way down,” Stephenson explained. “The scary part is their body is taking their nutrition from their organs and bones. Their bones are (then) no longer growing and they’re supposed to be growing.”
The clinicians believe early intervention is crucial so they also treat disordered eating, dieting and negative body image, which Stephenson mentioned are precursors to eating disorders.
“If we can help people with those things before it gets worse then we’ve prevented a lot of hard things in somebody’s life,” she said.
Stephenson added, “If you suspect or are worried about your child’s eating or as an adult, you’re worried about your eating, come in for a free consultation. There’s going to be no problem with getting answers. You might even be saving your child’s life or somebody else’s life by reaching out and asking those questions.”
The Rexburg Eating Disorder Center accepts patients ages 13 and up. If a parent wants a child younger than 13 assessed, Stephenson said she can assess the child and will give recommendations on how to continue with treatment due to their age.
For more information on the clinic, click here.