Archive for the ‘Anorexia’ Category

PostHeaderIcon What Eating Disorders are NOT

There seems to be alot of confusion and misinformation as to exactly what an eating disorder is and misconceptions about the reasons why a person would engage in these types of self-damaging behaviors.  The three main and most common eating disorders are anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating disorder.  Stated simply, anorexia is when a person starves themselves as a result of the intense fear of becoming fat.  Bulimia involves the destructive cycle of binging and purging and then following out of contorl eating and these individuals usually take laxatives or some type of diuretic.  Binge-eating disorder is simply when a person overeats a large amount of food in a very short period of time and are unable to control this compulsive eating. 

Eating disorders involve extreme disturbances in eating behaviors followed by rigid diets, throwing up, counting calories, weighing themselves, and gorging on food.  People with eating disorders use FOOD as a way to deal with uncomfortable emotions and a way to control what is going on around them.  At its very core root, people with eating disorders have very self-critical attitudes, are perfectionistic in nature, and are striving to deal with  negative emotions and feelings that they have about themselves. 

What eating disorders are NOT: I recently had a patient that was referred to me after she was diagnosed  a few months ago with anorexia after seeing a psychologist in town.  Prior to coming to see me, she had seen her pediatrician for a physical examination and he stated to her, “gee, I thought you would be thinner.”  This is the last thing you want to say to someone with an eating disorder.  You do not have to be underweight to have an eating disorder.  In fact, most of the individuals I have seen are of average weight and many are even overweight.  Eating disorders also affect men and boys, this diagnosis is not given only to girls and women.  People often think that people that have eating disorders are consumed with their physical appearance, in essence they think they are very vain and self-absorbed.  This is very untrue.  They engage in these behaviors as a way to control their feelings of anxiety, guilt and they have  a very self-distorted self-image.  Lastly, individuals with eating disorders are engaging in very self-injurious and damaging behaviors and these types of behaviors should be handled very carefully and seriously.  That is not to say that you should start waving materials and information about eating disorders at them and telling them if they don’t stop they are going to die.  The best thing you can do for someone with an eating disorder is to encourage them and often support, but at the same time strongly encouraging them to get professional help.  Forcing them to get help or to change the way they think will only exacerbate the problem.

PostHeaderIcon Treatment of Anorexia

Treatment of Anorexia, which is truly a treatable condition, involves several factors.  The treatment is multi-disciplinary in nature and involves the individual, his/her parents, a mental health professional, a dietician or nutritionist, and a medical doctor.  Treating Anorexia Nervosa first and foremost means restoring the individual to a normal or healthy weight.  Secondly, treating the mental health issues that are directly related to anorexia and a reduction and the eventual extinguishing of the behaviors that led to the unhealthy eating habits.  Lastly, preventing a relapse in the unhealthy habits of the person with anorexia.  It is very easy to return to their “old habits” of doing things. 

A person with anorexia often is often at a very unhealthy weight and is painfully thin.  Any medical concerns or problems need to immediately be addressed by his/her physician.  In these individuals that are painfully thin and that are at a critical point, outpatient mental health treatment is not recommended until they are medically stable. 

Nutritional therapy/counseling is also needed to treat a person with anorexia.  For an anorexic that is very thin, it will take some time to restore them to a healthy weight.  A dietician will be able to work with the individual on proper nutrition, healthy eating habits, and how to eat balanced meals. 

Lastly, counseling and therapy for a person with anorexia is of the utmost importance.  Working through the issues that led the person to the anorexic behaviors in the first place is needed in order to identify their thoughts/feelings and to set goals for healthier eating habits.  Often seen is individuals with anorexia is low self-esteem and a distorted perception of the self.  Therapy usually focuses on and stresses the importance of effective and more positive coping skills to work through stressors in life.  Therapy will also focus on family issues and how to work through problems in their relationships.