Finding the Best Anorexia, Bulimia and Eating Disorder Treatment for Young People
Eating disorders are on the rise all over the world. According to The Renfrew Center Foundation for Eating Disorders, up to 24 million people struggle with anorexia, bulimia or related eating disorders in America alone. The United States Department of Health and Human Services reports that 90 percent of cases involve women between the ages of 12 and 25. In fact, the third most common chronic illness among adolescents nationwide is anorexia, according to the Public Health Service’s Office in Women’s Health. If you are, or someone you care about is, one of the many young people struggling with an eating disorder, getting effective treatment is crucial for recovery. The good news is that qualified help is readily available for those who seek it.
Recognizing Common Eating Disorders
According to the Hull Institute of Lifestyle Management, the four most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating and orthorexia. Anorexia is characterized by the extreme restriction of food intake, often to the point of starvation. Anorexics typically conceal their condition by pretending to eat or by avoiding situations where food is present. They have a distorted body image and perceive themselves as fat or overweight even if they are dramatically underweight.
In stark contrast, binge eaters use food as a source of comfort, consuming large amounts of unhealthy foods in an attempt to reduce their stress, loneliness or insecurities. Binge eating often leads to obesity, which only exacerbates any underlying issues.
Sufferers of bulimia nervosa typically engage in binge eating followed by induced vomiting to rid themselves of the food they just consumed. This is one of the most dangerous eating disorders, as it places enormous amounts of stress on the body. Orthorexia is characterized by a compulsive desire to limit consumption to a few foods predetermined to be acceptable. This may manifest as an obsession with eating only organic foods or avoiding all forms of some foods, such as dietary fats, grains or meat. Orthorexia is very destructive when the list of acceptable foods is so limited that it does not contain all of the nutrients necessary to sustain life.
More recently, food addiction has emerged as another form of disordered eating, in which people may be physiologically addicted to specific foods, as well as engage in binge-type eating without purging.
Young people with eating disorders often find it difficult to cope. They are extremely vulnerable to criticism and ridicule by peers, which can throw them even deeper into their affliction. Learning to recognize common eating disorders may save the life of a young person, and stopping an eating disorder from doing major damage is easiest if you catch it early. Do not hesitate to speak up if you suspect that someone you know is struggling with any form of an eating disorder.
Eating Disorder Treatment Basics
Once you make the decision to address an eating disorder, either for yourself or on behalf of a loved one, the first step is to get professional assistance. Do not try to go it alone. An eating disorder is fundamentally a mental illness, but it can also have a catastrophic impact on physical health. Twenty percent of anorexics suffer premature deaths that are either directly or indirectly related to their disorder according to The Renfrew Center, and the American Journal of Psychiatry states that an anorexic teenage girl is 12 times more likely to die than her non-anorexic peers. Comprehensive treatment includes care by both medical and psychological specialists who treat the physical effects of the disorder and address the root causes of it. Additionally, a qualified nutritionist educates the patient on healthy eating habits while treating any nutritional deficiencies that have been caused by the illness.
Inpatient vs. Outpatient Care
Many young people suffering from eating disorders benefit from full hospitalization or other forms of inpatient care. Factors to keep in mind when considering this approach include the nature and progression of the eating disorder, the patient’s educational needs, and whether or not the patient is voluntarily seeking treatment.
When selecting an inpatient facility, do not underestimate the importance of its location. A local treatment center allows friends and family to be readily available for support, while a distant facility removes the patient from the social environment that may be exacerbating the condition. Inpatient care provides full supervision during the early stages of recovery. This is especially important when the effects of an eating disorder have seriously impacted the health of a patient or the patient is not a willing participant in the treatment process.
Outpatient treatment plans are beneficial for patients transitioning out of inpatient care or those who do not require full supervision. Intensive outpatient programs consist of several meetings per week, group meals centered around healthy eating, and therapy sessions that facilitate coping skills and address socialization issues. For patients with less severe disorders or those who are transitioning out of care, outpatient services can be incredibly beneficial and are tailored to fit the individual’s needs. Services may include therapy, nutritional counseling, eating disorder education and medical monitoring.
The Big Picture
At their core, eating disorders are not about food. Young people often find themselves navigating a minefield of mixed social messages, unrealistic aspirations of physical perfection, and overwhelming economic, educational and family pressures. These issues must be addressed for recovery to happen.
Almost half of all people struggling with an eating disorder also suffer from clinical depression, according to a study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry. The same study reveals that those with eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any folks with mental illness. Immediate and appropriate treatment is key to getting your life or that of your young loved one back on track. Treatment centers that specialize in the eating disorders of adolescents and young adults help young people cope with the issues they face on a day-to-day basis.