Did you know that it is common for people to have more than one mental health condition? I didn’t either until I learned while attending a Mental Health First Aid course this spring. This is often referred to as dual diagnosis or co-occurrence. An example of this would be when an individual has an eating disorder and also has anxiety.
As a registered dietitian, I work with individuals who have mental health conditions with the majority of them having eating disorders. When I was choosing a focus for my practice, I didn’t want to limit my reach to those with eating disorders but wanted to make food-related support available to individuals with any mental health condition. When you initially are diagnosed with anxiety or depression, you may not automatically consider working with a dietitian but a dietitian can be an important part of your mental health support team. When clients are recovering their eating disorder, my practice requires them to have their mental health support team in place in order for us to work together.
Imagine you're building a 50 piece puzzle when you open the box and realize that you’re missing over half of the pieces. This is often how clients feel when they are trying to manage their mental health condition(s) alone. Now imagine that you make an appointment with your primary care provider and they present you with 10 puzzle pieces. You next make an appointment with your therapist and they present you with another 10 puzzles pieces. Lastly, you make an appointment with your registered dietitian and they present you with the final puzzles pieces you were missing. You bring all the puzzle pieces home from your appointments and start finding all the edge pieces, matching the colors and putting pieces together. You're still doing the work but the individuals on your mental health support team helped you find the missing puzzle pieces.
You do not have to fight your mental health condition alone. You are worthy of support. You can build a mental health support team to help you.
As I mentioned in the previous scenario, the three important members of a mental health support team include a primary care provider, therapist and registered dietitian. Not all mental health conditions require a registered dietitian but I believe food-related support should be an option to everyone.
A primary care provider may be the first healthcare professional to diagnose your mental health condition. From postpartum depression to eating disorders, a primary care provider such as a family practice doctor are an important piece in building your mental health support team. They may even refer you to a therapist or registered dietitian, depending on the type of support that you need. They are also an amazing source of recommendations so be sure to speak up and ask for what you need!
Therapists have a variety of specialty areas and experiences. It is important to think of your first appointment with a therapist like a blind date. You might connect with the first therapist that you meet or you may have to work with a few therapists to find the one you feel most comfortable with. It might be helpful to ask your family & friends who they see. Telehealth and therapy based apps have increased in popularity since the COVID-19 pandemic.
A registered dietitian can help you improve your relationship with food. You can also work together on your thoughts around food and your body image. Dietitians are routinely involved in the recovery process for those with eating disorders but they also can play a vital role in providing food related support for those with anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions. Popular diets that are based in restriction can have a negative impact on your mental health. Working with a registered dietitian who focuses on intuitive eating and health at every size (HAES®) can be helpful.
Do you have a mental health condition? Are you still missing some pieces to your puzzle? How can I support you in building your mental health support team? Send me an email at email@example.com or use the Book Now link to schedule a free inquiry call. I would love to support you!