March is National Eating Disorder Month

March is National Eating Disorder Month

“Recovery from an eating disorder is not a destination to perfection – recovery is a path to realizing your best potential.”   By Ann T. Barnes, Psy.D., R.D.

Eating disorders are serious illnesses which affect over 30 million US individuals who are impacted by anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or binge eating disorder.   Women are more likely than men to develop an eating disorder. However, 5-15% of those diagnosed are men who have anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa.    It is estimated that 5 million women and 3 million men suffer from binge eating disorder.   Frequently those with eating disorders also suffer from depression, anxiety, or mood disorders.  Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of all mental health problems.   Effective treatment of eating disorders requires a specialized multi-disciplinary team to help with recovery.   A treatment team is comprised of a therapist, dietitian, medical doctor and often a psychiatrist.

The reasons why individuals develop an eating disorder are complex and include biological, psychological, genetic, developmental and sociological factors.    Media does play a role in the idealization of thinness equaling beauty.  However, advocates of healthy body image and health at any size have many important inroads in making significant differences.   The 2016 Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition features Ashley Gram, a plus size model.  Of course,  many will argue that Sports Illustrated only contributes to the objectification of women, however, I believe the trend toward celebrating healthier curves is wonderful.

An eating disorder is a form of compulsive behavior.  It serves the purpose of soothing oneself or distracting oneself from something that is painful or intolerable, such as a painful self-evaluation or situation which the person experiences as overwhelming or insolvable.   Eating disorder behaviors are used when healthy coping mechanisms are not available or do not work effectively.  A person will channel  their feelings of insecurity and self-doubt (feeling out-of-control) into the pursuit of the mastering  an eating disorder, thereby avoiding the actions and  practice  of life pursuits which promote true  success,  accomplishment, and vitality.   The pursuit of an eating disorder interferes with the development of healthy coping mechanisms which impedes personal development, growth, and mastery of new challenges.   With enough repetition the eating disorder behaviors take on a “life of their own” and are no longer under the voluntary control of the person.  The longer a person is entrenched in eating disorder behaviors, the longer treatment will take in order for the person to move into recovery and no longer identify with and be dependent upon the eating disorder.

Recovery from an eating disorder is not about will-power and no one is to be blamed for the development of an eating disorder.  If you or a loved one is suffering with an eating disorder, professional assessment and treatment is vital.  Treatment begins with understanding and kindness.  Nagging, yelling, or issuing threats will not lead a loved one into recovery.  If you are concerned about a loved one who you may believe is suffering from an eating disorder – please ask for help.   The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD) is a wonderful resource for seeking information about and getting help for the treatment of eating disorders at     Barnes & Klatt, P.C. would be happy to answer questions you may have about the treatment of eating disorders.   Please call us at 847-981-9200 ext. 100. 

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