Eating Disorders can be devastating to individuals and their families. What often start off as diets that are too successful, behaviors that may seem a little extreme, soon develops a life of its own and the result can be life threatening weight loss. Alarmingly, few people with eating disorders get treatment specifically for this problem, although there are frequent health problems as a result of bulimia, binge eating, and/or anoerexia. Eating disorders can lead to a variety of serious physical health consequences including damage to vital organs such as the esophagus and stomach, as well as more systemic illnesses resulting from malnutrition and dehydration, such as osteoporosis and frequent fractures, irregular heart rhythms and heart and kidney failure, severe dental problems, dangerously low and high blood pressure and so on. Eating disorders often co-occur with other psychological disorders. Although it has long been known that depressive disorders and eating disorders co-occur, research suggests that many other disorders including Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder and a whole range of Personality Disorders frequently co-occur with eating disorders. Early diagnosis and treatment with a professional who is able to understand and manage the longer term treatment that these combinations of problems can require over time is essential. A strategy that utilizes psychotherapy, medical management, dietary counseling and medication has the greatest chance for success.
A psychologist emphasizes building a relationship with the patient, and managing what is essentially a behavioral disorder, which can be highly resistant to treatment, unless the whole person is understood and the problems are addressed through individual cognitive/behavioral treatment, as well as family therapy, and appropriate referral to physicians for medical care. Eating disorders are becoming increasingly common in both men and minority populations. As a psychosomatic problem, there is some natural reluctance for those afflicted to attend to the psychological, emotional and behavioral component of the problem. Developing a healthy relationship to eating often requires changes in thinking and behavior which can lead to a new zest for life and living. Developing optimistic attitudes and positive approaches to coping with life's demands requires a healthy body and mind which can only be achieved by having a healthy approach to eating.