Can spending time with a horse help release some of the core issues associated with eating disorders? Equine therapy has been used successfully for substance use disorders and may soon enter the field of eating disorder treatments with a strong presence. People with eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder have learned to use food to escape from or avoid negative emotions. Equine therapy for eating disorders may be successful because it helps restore their ability to recognize and embrace healthy emotions.
At Recovery Ranch Tennessee, our equine therapy program focuses on helping individuals connect with their emotions in a safe and supportive environment. Working with horses can help people struggling with eating, substance use, or mental health disorders let go of feelings of shame, guilt, and insecurity that are often rooted in their minds. Learn more about our treatment programs and how to get started by calling 1.844.876.7680 today.
Common Eating Disorder Symptoms and Triggers
Like other mental health conditions, eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia have distinct symptoms that cause health problems and social and occupational impairment. Sometimes, these symptoms can be so severe that a doctor may prescribe bed rest due to the malnourished state many people end up in. Some common symptoms of eating disorders include:
- Extreme preoccupation with food, body size, or weight
- Frequent dieting
- Avoidance of social activities related to food
- Excessive exercising
- Compulsive behaviors like binge eating or purging
- Feeling guilt or shame after eating
Often these symptoms stem from deep-rooted feelings of inadequacy, depression, and anxiety. Some common triggers for eating disorder symptoms arise from stressful situations, like family issues, school pressures, or body image concerns.
What Is Equine Therapy?
Typical equine therapy involves someone learning to groom, feed, train, and care for the animal in a cooperative environment. Through the process, it is believed that patients with addictions or eating disorders can experience an atmosphere of non-judgment because the animals are incapable of responding to factors like a person’s behaviors or physical stature. As the animal accepts the person without these conditions, they may begin to see themselves as worthy of their own acceptance—translating into a new confidence and hope, along with healthier eating patterns.
Why Is Equine Therapy for Anorexia and Bulimia Promising?
As an eating disorder progresses, the patient may lose the ability to even decipher that they are causing themselves dangerous, sometimes deadly, harm. Working with horses may help reconnect the patient to their emotional sensations and open channels to feelings that have been submerged. Equine therapy for eating disorders may be able to help individuals experience and understand feelings like:
Once these emotions are presented in a healthy, non-judgmental space, a patient can finally address the underlying issues and triggers that led to their eating disorder. Connecting with an animal has been said to help people reconnect with their feelings in a safe space without fear.
Equine Therapy for Mental Health at Recovery Ranch Tennessee
At our center in Nunnelly, TN, equine therapy is a powerful and effective tool used to help treat and manage mental health and substance use disorders. Equine therapy provides individuals with an opportunity to engage with horses in a safe and secure environment. This type of therapy allows participants to explore their emotions without fear or judgment, as well as develop skills for healthy communication. We are excited to see how effective equine therapy for eating disorders will be, as it may help people gain a sense of self-confidence and acceptance.