Bridget, a 32 year-old woman who has struggled with anorexia for 18 years, told her story to Discovery Health. “In 1997, I was in and out of doctor’s offices for a number of different symptoms related to the eating disorder behaviors,” she says, “I would switch from one doctor to another..
.if they mentioned my weight loss” (entry 1, par. 5). Bridget was hospitalized numerous times in the next few years for stabilization and was officially diagnosed with anorexia nervosa.It never took long for the illness to take over once she was away from hospital care.
“I was very conflicted inside. I wanted to choose recovery,” she admits. “And yet I struggled daily to find a reason worth living for” (entry 2, par. 1). She feels frightened since she has allowed anorexia to control her for so many years. Bridget understands that in order to get better, she must challenge her thought system. But how does one do that when with each step forward, three steps are taken back?There are many different treatments for eating disorders but one must remember that there are many different aspects that need to be treated individually.
Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders Inc. (ANRED) says: Eating disorders are treatable, and lots of people recover from them. Recovery, however, is a difficult process that can take several months or even years. Some people do better than others.
The folks who do best work with physicians and counselors who help them resolve both the medical and psychological issues that contribute to, or result from, disordered eating (par. 3).Medications are seldom used to treat anorexia. “Anti-depressants…can help to correct this imbalance, but they aren’t for everyone – and they don’t work in isolation,” (par. 12) says Dr.
Pennington. Behavioural and cognitive therapies should be used in conjunction with drugs to help change the behaviours that keep the illness going. Patients can be treated in a hospital or on an outpatient basis. Weight, cardiac status, and overall health are the key factors in influencing treatment options. In the hospital, patients have strict rules to follow about eating. A certain amount of food must be eaten each day and the patient must gain a certain amount of weight each week to earn more privileges.
Psychotherapy usually continues for at least a year but it may last longer for some individuals to maybe five or six years after treatment starts.The biggest problem with the treatment of an eating disorder is that most people resist treatment. It can be compared to treating someone with an addiction to drugs to alcohol. “They cling to the illusion that if they just lose enough weight, they will feel good about themselves, improve their lives, and enjoy self confidence and success” (ANRED, par. 1). So is recovery possible? According to ANRED it is but only when people get to a certain point by “[understanding] that the supposed benefits of thinness are only an illusion that will never bring them happiness. That starving..
.and other self-destructive behaviours will never lead to peace” (par. 2). At this point of enlightenment and when one looks for better ways to build a meaningful life, recovery becomes a real possibility.
So, is there hope for permanent recovery? Will my friend Maria ever be in the clear? Or what about others like Bridget and Juliette? The experts agree that the chances for permanent recovery are best with early detection and treatment of symptoms. People must be aware that the illness can recur. Many of the recovering victims in the film Recovering Bodies (Media Education Foundation) said that understanding the risk of recurrence is key.As Allie, an interviewed patient put it, “I’d much rather be a recovering anorexic forever than just be an anorexic.” Recovery is not only about eating again and being healthy both physically and psychologically. Support is always key.
Where a support group can understand the illness, support from friends and family helps at a more intimate level. But these relationships must involve mutual “give-and-take” with minimal “babying and parenting”.I believe that there is hope for Maria. While I have seen some past behaviours recurring occasionally I think she will be alright. As long as family and friends, including myself, are there to recognize a turn for the worst, we will be able to help put her back on the road to a healthy life because I know that is exactly where she wants to be.Works CitedAnorexia Nervosa & Related Eating Disorders Inc. Treatment and Recovery. 2002.
14 Jan. 2003, http://health.discovery.
com.Colino, Stacey. “My Mother Gave Me Anorexia.” Cosmopolitan Jun. 2002: 192-194.
Discovery Health. Bridget’s Story: Anorexia. 2001.
14 Jan. 2003