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Treatment for Eating Disorder

Warning Signs of Eating Disorder
Many people worry about their weight, what they eat, and how they look. This is especially true for teenagers and young adults, who face extra pressure to fit in and look attractive at a time when their bodies are changing.

In the early stages, it can be challenging to tell the difference between an eating disorder and normal self-consciousness, weight concerns, or dieting. As eating disorders progress, the red flags become easier to spot. But a person with an eating disorder will often go to great lengths to hide the problem, so it's important to know the warning signs.

Medical Complications

Medical complications can frequently be a result of eating disorders. Individuals with eating disorders who use drugs to stimulate vomiting, bowel movements, or urination may be in considerable danger, because this practice increases the risk of heart failure.

In patients with anorexia, starvation can damage vital organs such as the brain and heart. To protect itself, the body shifts into "slow gear": monthly menstrual periods stop, breathing pulse and blood pressure rates drop, and thyroid function slows. Nails and hair become brittle; the skin dries, yellows, and becomes covered with soft hair called lanugo. Excessive thirst and frequent urination may occur. Dehydration contributes to constipation, and reduced body fat leads to lowered body temperature and the inability to withstand cold.


Psychotherapy needs to focus on a number of issues, after a therapeutic, trusting relationship has been established. The most powerful issue is the obsession with body-image, which is also the most difficult to change. The client's preoccupation with body-image can make any clinician shake their heads in frustration; therapists must therefore carefully monitor counter-transference issues. These individuals can be an extreme challenging group to work with.
Group therapy is not only an appropriate modality, but often a chosen modality for its cost-savings as well as its powerful effects. In groups specifically devoted to issues of eating disorders, a patient can gain not only support for the gradual gains they accomplish, but also be confronted on issues more easily than in individual therapy.


Antidepressants (such as amitriptyline) are the usual drug treatment and may speed up the recovery process. Chlorpromazine may be beneficial for those individuals suffering from severe obsessions and increased anxiety and agitation.
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is never an appropriate treatment option for a person suffering from an uncomplicated eating disorder.

Nutritional Therapy

A second component of anorexia therapy is nutritional counseling. In nutritional counseling, a nutritionist or dietician teaches the patient about healthy eating, proper nutrition, and balanced meals. The nutritionist also helps the person develop and follow meal plans that include enough calories to reach or maintain a normal, healthy weight.

You can also seek advice from a health
professional, even if your friend or family member won't. And you can bring others-from peers to parents-into the circle of support. You can also help by being a good role model for healthy eating, exercising, and body image. Don't make negative comments about your own body or anyone else's. And whatever you do: don't turn into the food police. A person with anorexia needs support, not an authority figure standing over the table with a calorie counter.

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