New eating disorder treatment center opens in North Jersey
PARAMUS — A new treatment center for those struggling and suffering from eating disorders opened last month in Bergen County.
An eating disorder is a group of mental and behavioral health diseases that many suffer from on a daily basis, said Deborah Visconi, President and CEO of Bergen New Bridge Medical Center in Paramus.
“What we’ve learned when opening the center is that eating disorders are the second leading cause of death in individuals suffering from a mental health condition, second only to opioid overdose. It is a significant disease,” Visconi said.
In New Jersey, more than 375,000 residents from an eating disorder and roughly 900,000 more will struggle with an eating disorder at some point in their lives, she added.
So, the goal of the Paramus-based center is to be able to provide access to those who need certain types of services.
What are some signs of eating disorders?
It’s all about the individual’s relationship with food, Visconi said. But signs include avoidance of food, a lot of bathroom time, avoidance of certain types of food, weight loss, extreme weight gain, true anorexia, hair loss, change of skin color, cavities due to excessive vomiting, and changes in a person’s behavior.
Who suffers from eating disorders?
According to Visconi, in the past, mostly adolescent and pre-adolescent girls suffered from eating disorders. But what she’s seeing now is older teens, more adults in their 20s and 30s, as well as LGBTQ, transgender, and young men suffering from the disease.
“So, it’s really crossing all kinds of socio-economic and demographic statistics than we’ve seen in the past,” she said.
It could be that they are more aware of it now than in years past. But also, more people are coming forward admitting they have some kind of eating disorder than they did years ago.
She said it used to be a disorder that was looked down upon so many people did not admit to having a problem.
What can one expect at the center?
Visconi said the center is run by a psychiatrist. There are social workers, nurses, dieticians, nutritionists, and other ancillary medical professionals that work out of the center in order to provide an array of services that these individuals need.
It is beyond counseling. Nutrition is a big part of recovery from an eating disorder. The medical side of it is important too. Individuals suffering from eating disorders often have metabolic disturbances, cardiac issues, and other medical conditions that come with the territory, she said.
The center is open to all residents, not just ones from Bergen County. It is open Monday through Friday but as the center grows, Visconi hopes to extend hours into the evenings and weekends.
“One unique feature of our center is that we accept, from an insurance point of view, all comers. We are probably the only one in this region that accepts individuals with no insurance, those who are underinsured, and those who have what we call government insurance,” Visconi said.
Nobody will be turned away. The door is always open.
She said the goal is to provide access to these services to whoever needs them.
There has been a lot of positive feedback about the center since it opened last month. “It’s about time,” is what Visconi hears from many individuals.
It’s a taboo illness. People don’t understand it or know how to deal with it. Other mental health providers and community health organizations will refer people to the center. She believes the feedback will only be better as the center continues.
What if you suspect someone has an eating disorder?
If you or someone you believe has an eating disorder, it’s important to get them assessed as soon as possible so proper recommendations for care and treatment can be implemented as soon as possible.
Eating disorders can be life-threatening. Visconi said every 52 minutes, someone dies from an eating disorder in the United States.
“We encourage everyone, even if you just suspect that someone might have an issue, that they reach out and try to get help. There is no stigma and no shame in seeking help when you need it,” Visconi said.