Having the highest mortality rate of any mental illness and often unseen to the human eye, eating disorders make up more than 24 million people in the U.S. Wanting to take action to help those in need, the Desert Star Addiction Recovery Center started an eating disorder program this year.

Executive Director Richard Poppy opened Desert Star in 2009. The center offers outpatient treatment programs for people who are affected by alcohol, drugs, gambling or sex addictions. The programs focus on helping people with their substance addiction as well as their mental health issues such as trauma, loss, grief, depression and anxiety. Even though some addictions cannot be medically treated, Desert Star works to help people abstain, in order to help them live better lives.

All of the programs offer workshops and therapy for individuals, couples and families. Desert Star also provides intensive outpatient treatment programs along with specialty programs and services. Their website also allows for people to see if they do have a substance or behavior problem by providing links to online self-tests.

This year Desert Star decided to add to their list of programs. The eating disorder program addresses anorexia, bulimia and compulsive over eating. 

“Working with eating disorders, it’s important to create a safe environment,” said Poppy. “There’s a lot of focus around control concerning eating disorders. We want to help people see that they have control in their life but they don’t need to necessarily control their food intake.”

According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, only one in 10 men and women who suffer from eating disorders receive treatment. What distorts the way men and women think of themselves is the media, said Poppy, who adds that women are influenced to believe that being skinny is healthy and that men are influenced to believe that they have to be exceedingly muscular.

The program is meant to help people physically and psychologically, said Poppy. One of the most beneficial aspects of the program is the community meal where employees of Desert Star and clients eat with one another – a meal planned by a nutritionist. 

“We are helping them have a normal experience at a dining room table because a lot of people haven’t had that,” said Poppy. “We are hoping to give them a positive experience and treatment. It’s an opportunity to take a look at behavioral patterns and ways of thinking and make better alternative choices.”

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