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
Web MD for more information