Seeking Treatment for Eating Disorders

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Woman thinking about her eating disorders

Eating disorder is one of the most prevalent chronic illnesses among adolescence and young adults. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any chronic illness and are also the hardest to treat. Eating disorders are difficult to treat because, unlike drugs and alcohol, you need food to live. As a result, very few people receive treatment for eating disorders, and their recent popularity has made disordered eating seem normal. However, there is help and support. Most treatment centers will isolate the multitude of problems an individual struggles with. Very commonly with addiction there is some kind of disordered eating as well. It is important to isolate the individual issues and determine how they interact with one another.

What Are The Types of Eating Disorders?

Woman thinking about her eating disorders

The two main types of eating disorders are Bulimia Nervosa and Anorexia Nervosa. Bulimia is categorized by periods of binging and purging, while anorexia is categorized by periods of restricting. Both of these are equally dangerous and if left untreated can cause death. On this continuum there are many other kinds of behavior that are considered disordered eating. The DSM-4 paints a black and white picture of eating disorders, which diagnostically excludes many individuals who struggle with this issue. For instance, one of the criteria for diagnosis for Anorexia Nervosa is an interruption in the menstrual cycle; this excludes males from the diagnosis. Due to the strict criteria for diagnosis set forth by the DSM many individuals who do not fall into the black and white categories are left without answers. It is hard to determine what is an eating disorder and what is disordered eating with the potential for eating disorder. Many studies show that 85%, the vast majority, of young adults and adolescences engage in unhealthy weight control behavior. The main obstacle to eating disorder treatment is a lack of knowledge.

What Causes Eating Disorders

Treatment centers will ask a series of questions to determine if the patient meets criteria for an eating disorder or disordered eating. Professionals are aware of the prevalence of eating disorders, and will most likely be able to offer support and treatment for this issue. Since eating disorders are especially prevalent among people who have depression, they are also more common among people who struggle with addiction. It is important to determine the interaction of a persons many diagnosis. Treatment will focus on determining if addiction is the problem or the solution. This can be confusing since addiction is obviously a problem if an individual enters treatment. However, the reason most people begin doing drugs or drinking alcohol in excess, is to solve some underlying psychiatric problem, such as depression. It is difficult to determine if addiction causes the eating disorder or if it was used as a mechanism to help perpetuate the eating disorder. For example many people use stimulant drugs to lose weight, however, a side effect of stimulant drug use is anorexia. So, it is difficult to determine which came first, the drug use, other psychiatric problems, or the eating disorder.

Treating Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are very hard to treat, however, there are options. Eating disorder treatment starts with exposing the behavior and talking about it. Eating disorders, like addiction, thrive in secrecy. It is important for people sharing these issues to come together and heal as a tribe. People need the support of others who understand what they are going through. Even with comrodery to overcome disordered eating, individuals usually need talk therapy, education, and even medication to fully recover.

The use of medication to treat eating disorders is a fairly new concept. Some medications have proven effective in treatment, however, most of these studies are in their infancy. One drug that some studies have proven effective is Prozac. With high enough doses, somewhere around 80mg, Prozac has shown success in stopping the urge to purge in Bulimics. Similarly, some anti-nausea medications, like Zofran, have displayed results in stopping the urge to purge. Again, the use of these medications in treating eating disorders is new, and it is unclear if there is simple correlation or causation. It is hard to determine if the medication directly impacts the eating disorder or if it s a secondary effect from, for example, treated depression.

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