What Causes Eating Disorders?
Eating disorders are complex and have multiple causes. It is true that our culture, with its idealization of thinness and the “perfect body” image contributes to these disorders; but long-standing psychological, interpersonal and social conditions play the major part. People with eating disorders often suffer from depression, anxiety and feelings of inadequacy and loneliness. Troubled personal and family relationships may also be a factor. Generally, there are several factors at play when a person developes an eating disorder.
How Can You Help Prevent Eating Disorders?
Educate yourself about eating disorders.
If you suspect that you or a friend has an eating disorder, seek help from a pediatrician or doctor who can refer you to a therapy program. Talk with your friend about specific behaviors you have noticed and express concern. Be supportive, not judgmental. If she denies having a problem, tell her that you are worried and need to do something about it to ease your mind (e.g., give her material to read, tell a parent or counselor, etc.). Offer to go with her to an assessment session or a support group.
Some form of psychotherapy tailored to the individual is the most effective form of treatment. All aspects of influence on the disorder must be addressed (as mentioned in “What Causes Eating Disorders”) as well as the symptoms themselves. The length of treatment varies from months to years depending on severity and the amount of time the person has already had eating problems.
Treatment can be on an outpatient basis, which would include individual, group or family therapy. Psychiatric medication, support groups or nutritional counseling are often important for effective treatment.
Intensive outpatient treatment and/or day hospitalization is an alternative to traditional inpatient treatment. This form of intervention offers specialized treatment while enabling a person to continue with school, work, etc. The Atlanta Center for Eating Disorders offers a variety of intensive outpatient services.
Hospitalization is recommended when an eating disorder has led to physical problems that are life-threatening. A specialized eating disorders inpatient program is the best choice when hospitalization is indicated.