Bulimia, anorexia, and compulsive overeating are some of the most common eating disorders that have affected a larger number of women than men across the world. And more so, with the greater emphasis placed by the media in recent times on the ‘body beautiful’. For many of those suffering from these conditions, the problem manifests itself either during adolescence or in its full form in middle adulthood, when a certain stressful situation pushes them over the edge. Social acceptability and desire for structure are two of the main reasons why these disorders maintain so much control over our lives. But there are ways in which these irrational patterns of thinking can be replaced with more balanced behavior. And the best way to do this is to seek the help of guidance counselors, mentors, and other participants at local eating disorder clinics.
The first step toward seeking help at a clinic involves the patient making a decision that change is the right thing for him. While this realization might either be initiated by an intervention or an epiphany, the crux is that it has to be self-motivated to be effective and permanent. The next step after admitting the problem constitutes a number of sessions with doctors, psychiatrists, and therapists. Tests are also conducted to document the physical evidence of an eating disorder. And based on these results and those of a psychological evaluation, it is determined whether the next course of action should be counseling, medication, or a short stay in a treatment facility.
Individualized treatment and counseling are very important, as every individual is unique and possesses highly distinctive set of root causes. And very often as well, the disorder is closely linked to other problems like depression, substance abuse, and anxiety issues. While some programs allow for the participant to still maintain his daily activities, others require for him to take up temporary residence at the facility so that the environment can be controlled to his maximum benefit. Along with individual counseling, group and family therapy are also crucial to the process. And when supplemented with dietary and goal planning, almost guarantee a faster recovery.
At most clinics, those seeking help are provided with a number of skill sets and resources to replace the unhealthy eating patterns, which mostly govern as coping mechanisms in the absence of alternative solutions. They are also educated about the harmful effects of continuing with their current eating habits for too long, as well given training in redesigning their self image and their responses to aggressors and antagonists they often meet in daily life. These are very important for helping them cope with potentially anxious situations.
Fitness and nutrition are also emphasized with low fat, high protein, and complex carbohydrate meals favored over others. Natural flavors and organic food are also preferred to food rich in saturated fats and calories that often cause sudden fluctuations in the body’s energy levels as well as mood swings. Individualized meals and nutrition counseling have been found to be very successful, but the true test lies in taking the participants to public restaurants and allowing them to make autonomous decisions based on the new behavior patterns they have been instructed in.
Engaging in-group sessions is also extremely helpful especially for teenagers who often feel more comfortable and are more prepared to open up among those in similar situations as themselves. Especially, since most eating conditions are kept extremely private and are also very difficult to communicate and explain to family members and peers who have never experienced these same situations. Combining group counseling with sports and other team building activities, as well as working with animals has also been found to help boost confidence and self-esteem.
Eating disorders are less life threatening than they are disruptive, and it only takes for a patient to recover for him to realize this. A silent predator of sorts, it can creep up on the most unsuspecting of us — when the simple desire to look a certain way on any one particular day, suddenly changes into a matter of life and death. Then starving yourself, or puking out your favorite dessert, seems not that repugnant. But there’s always a way out of the cycle of self-pity and helplessness, and the first step toward freedom is to admit it.