Eating disorders can cause brief illness or lead to a chronic or life-threatening disorder. Prompt diagnosis and assertive treatment led by specialists in eating disorder treatment are essential. Often a family member knows that something is wrong before a doctor or therapist will make a diagnosis. Trust your instincts and do not delay seeking specialized treatment.
Caught early, and treated aggressively, the disruption to the patient’s life and health can be temporary.
Finding appropriate treatment is the first step and it often becomes the responsibility of the parents to fully research and evaluate the appropriate treatment approach and location for their dependent children.
Caregivers need to know:
- Not all treatment methodologies are created equal and no one approach will work for every patient.
- General healthcare providers are not trained or able to advise the family on all the treatment options available to them.
- Many eating disorder clinicians are not trained to provide a variety of treatment options, and thus may not recommend other (possibly more appropriate) treatments.
- Patients, due to brain functioning problems caused by even mild malnutrition (anosognosia), are often not able to evaluate treatment options.
Treatment is difficult, but full recovery is possible.
Although optimism is appropriate and helpful, families should expect to make supporting their loved one’s recovery and relapse prevention the number one priority for the next six to twelve months.
Just as if your child had cancer or was recovering from a traumatic injury – jobs, school and social activities must temporarily become secondary to recovery from this life-threatening illness. This is why it is so important for families to participate in understanding all treatment options and make informed decisions.
Definition: Anosognosia/anosognosicPertaining to an illness or disability in which the sufferer seems to be unaware of, or denies the disability. Patients with anorexia nervosa are often “anosognosic” as they truly do not feel ill and they experience their own behaviors and thoughts as normal. This is not a choice or conscious denial, but rather a feature of brain dysfunction.