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Important Facts About

Eating Disorders

  • Eating disorders are potentially lethal illnesses, and no one should take them lightly as “It’s just a phase she’s going through,” or “she’ll grow out of it,” or “I feel fine and I don’t really need all these appointments.” These are examples of the denial by the struggler or family members of the stark reality of an eating disorder-these are deceptive, debilitating, dangerous illnesses.


  • Do not treat those with eating disorders - that is for professionals trained to do so. However, do not underestimate what you can do; preferably under the guidance of an expert. You can do more than even a treatment team if you love the person who suffers and provide support with your confidence in that person. Keep reminding your loved one that, yes, it is the hardest work she or he has ever done, and if this person keeps working with the treatment team, she or he will succeed.


  • Whenever possible, a treatment team is optimal. The team should consist of a physician, therapist and dietician, all of whom are truly skilled with eating disorders. A psychiatrist may also be needed to be part of the team. A team coordinator is also crucial since good work done by different providers can be problematic unless the team is all on the same page.


  • True eating disorders do not go away on their own. They will last a lifetime if one does not receive adequate treatment-treatment that is intense enough and for a long-enough duration. One should not stop because one “feels better.” Ultimately, of course, one should feel better, but that is usually after dealing with some very difficult issues. It is really best that the experience of the treatment team dictate when treatment intensity or frequency should be increased or decreased, or when a person no longer needs treatment.


  • Eating disorders do occur in the best of families – no one is immune. Those who get eating disorders are usually exceptional people. Generally, they are empathic, intuitive, hardworking and gifted. Some of these qualities can be hard to see if one is in the throes of an eating disorder, but when they are in recovery then these traits reemerge.


  • Eating disorders are called psychiatric disorders. However, medical issues are always present during much of the illness. It appears that eating disorders may be triggered by some physical events such as starvation, especially when coupled with exercise. Strugglers start changing what they eat, reducing portion sizes and decreasing “junk” food. This progresses to more and more restriction of food and exercising increases. The person finds himself in an avalanche unable to stop. There isn’t a mind-set of wanting to have an eating disorder; it’s only to be healthy. The physical results of not enough nutrition itself seem to set off the eating disorder.


  • There may be some underlying brain and/or psychological underpinnings that helped this behavior turn into an eating disorder, but had it not been for physical changes, it is unlikely the eating disorder would have developed. Because medical complications occur with eating disorders, competent ongoing medical assessment is necessary.                                                                                                                               

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