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Anorexia nervosa is an illness that usually occurs in teenage girls, but it can also occur in teenage boys and adult women and men. People with anorexia are obsessed with being thin. They lose a lot of weight and are terrified of gaining weight. They believe they are fat even though they are very thin. Anorexia isn't just a problem with food or weight. It's an attempt to use food and weight to deal with emotional problems.


Treatment of anorexia is difficult, because people with anorexia believe there is nothing wrong with them. Patients in the early stages of anorexia (less than 6 months or with just a small amount of weight loss) may be successfully treated without having to be admitted to the hospital. But for successful treatment, patients must want to change and must have family and friends to help them.


People with more serious anorexia need care in the hospital, usually in a special unit for people with anorexia and bulimia. Treatment involves more than changing the person's eating habits. Anorexic patients often need counseling for a year or more so they can work on changing the feelings that are causing their eating problems. These feelings may be about their weight, their family problems or their problems with self-esteem. Some anorexic patients are helped by taking anti-depressants. These medicines are prescribed by a doctor and are used along with counseling.

How to help a friend with an eating disorder:

There is a lot of shame attached to having an eating disorder and as a result individuals with an eating disorder can be pretty defensive about their eating- just as weight and food consumption is a sensitive topic for many people. It takes sensitivity to the personís feelings about their eating along with concern in order to help a friend with an eating disorder. It also takes an understanding of what an eating disorder is about to be most helpful.

While the person who has an eating disorder is thinking about food and weight you need to help them focus on whatís really going on. In the end, eating disorders arenít as much about weight or how much or how little the person has eaten as it is about becoming trapped into relying on food and weight as the basis for how a person feels about themselves. Most people derive some of their feelings about themselves from their appearance but the person with an eating disorder relies too much on weight and food in their feelings about themselves-their self-esteem. Those feelings of self-esteem fluctuate with the tiniest of weight loss or gain or amount of food consumed. You can help your friend by helping them to focus not on their weight but how they are doing emotionally. The bad feelings someone with anorexia or bulimia has about themselves donít begin with their eating disorder. An eating disorder often starts from an attempt by a person to feel better about themselves by controlling or using food.

Because of the control issues associated with eating disorders and the shame the person experiences, as much as you want the best for your friend, itís not likely that they will get help as a result of one conversation. It usually takes repeated conversations and nonjudgmental listening for a person to feel safe enough to actually talk about whatís going on and then do something about it. Treatment for an eating disorder can be successful but it is hard won. Youíll need to be supportive and encouraging to your friend over time as they struggle to overcome their eating disorder.

Compulsive overeating disorder




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