Eating Disorders, Bulimia, Anorexia - Introduction
Eating disorders affect thousands of young women in the United States and other parts of the world. The compulsions involved can be life destroying. With anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders, therapy has been found to be effective.
Studies have shown that medications routinely prescribed, Prozac being the most commonly prescribed medication for eating disorders, as well as other SSRIs, have about the same success ratio as placebos in treating eating disorders.
Allyson Ertel/Elite Models, New York.
Possible Childhood Psychological Roots of Eating Disorder
The seeds of eating disorders can start from young. Girls are bombarded with images of the "perfect" body from the media. The Barbie doll image, which today also takes the form of movies and video games, the Princess culture that Disney promotes, and then later on, in advertising, both in print, especially in women's and teen magazines, Vogue, Glamour, Seventeen, Cosmopolitan, and really, in all advertising today, as well as on television advertising, the image of the perfect body is reinforced. A girl who suffers with low self-esteem, or who might experience ridicule of some form, can strive to obtain an unobtainable goal of the perfect body that advertising and the entertainment media project, and this can also contribute towards eating disorders. So parents can be aware of this with their daughters from young.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Eating Disorder
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been of help to many, as well as counseling on proper dieting and eating habits. One experience is given of a teenage tennis pro who developed anorexia, and it is said that a disproportionately large number of female athletes suffer from eating disorders. This tennis pro was helped with therapy and counseling and her therapist describes it as a "success story." So there are success stories in the battle with eating disorders.
Art and Art Therapy for Eating Disorders
Art is a good therapy for girls with eating disorders. It helps them to develop an interest associated with beauty, that takes the focus off of themselves. Since that interest is visual in art, it can help a young girl to be less self-centered, and if part of the art training involves human subjects, this can help a young girl develop a visual and mental concept of beauty that is not media-driven, and help her to change her thinking.
Self Help for Eating Disorders
By greatly reducing or doing without television and cutting down on the amount and intensity of movies, listening to gentler music, exercise, getting outside more for activities, going to the park, this can also contribute to a better self-image, self-esteem, and help in the battle with eating disorders. Taking music lessons, art lessons, can contribute to self-esteem, which can help a girl break free from the thought patterns that contribute to anorexia and bulimia.
A note about exercise:
Exercise is good when it is done in a balanced way, in moderation. Walking is a positive outdoor activity, which can help tone the body, build self-esteem, and is in general a healthy activity.Anything to extremes is not good, and sometimes, persons with eating disorders, might tend to emphasize exercise excessively. So it is necessary to maintain a balance with exercise. Like anything, if we find that we are overdoing it, we need to step back, and maintain our perspective, so that we are controlling the activity and the activity is not dominating over us.
Doing volunteer work such as with children or in a nursing home, working with disadvantaged children, or getting involved with a form of this work as a vocation, can help persons suffering from eating disorders to focus on the needs of others and to make gains in self-esteem, which can be of value in overcoming eating disorders. Finding joy in helping other people can prove to be a real therapy.
Two other positive therapies that can help some is for a girl to keep a journal. This can be of help in untangling thoughts in the mind, and putting them down on paper. Reading the Psalms is a positive, emotional experience, that can bring peace of mind, as many of the writers of the Psalms wrote their thoughts of inner turmoil in a way that some have identified with, and the gentle, poetic and spiritual nature of the Psalms is a healing. This is true with depression and anxieties as well.
Also, if a girl is inclined towards music or poetry, for some girls, writing poetry can be a form of expression that can build self-esteem, and also can prove to be a catharsis for emotions. In reading the poetry of Emily Dickinson, one can see how this was true of her, perhaps one of the most well known female poets. (Her poetry in large, was not published until after her death, which can be an encouragement for anyone who writes poetry, it does not have to be well read to be an active interest, but can be a personal form of expression.)
Other Types of Psychotherapy for Eating Disorders
Family therapy has proven beneficial in the treatment of eating disorders. Supportive therapy explores underlying causes for eating disorders and is often administered on an individual basis. Family based treatment encourages parents to intervene to disrupt behavior associated with eating disorders, and to persuade the adolescent to accept the interventions, and to encouraged the teen to take control over eating. The September issue of The Archives of General Psychiatry found that family therapy was twice as likely to help teens with eating disorders towards remission than traditional treatments.
Conclusion on Help for Eating Disorders
There are many avenues of therapy today that prove to be of help to girls suffering from eating disorders. For families, patience, love, compassion and empathy, are essential elements in helping a girl come through these type of difficulties and overcome the self-destructive practices and thought-patterns associated with eating disorders. Happily, many women and teens have successfully overcome eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, and have gone on to lead productive and happy lives.
A note on options with medication: While this website emphasizes non-pharmaceutical methods of overcoming mental health or behavioral disorders, some readers might already be on a medication regimen.
The information on this site can apply with equal weight to those who are on a medication regimen and have no thought of stopping that. The positive life-style changes and coping skills mentioned on this and other pages, can help a person to recover faster, and eventually can result in a gradual reduction of the amount of medication needed, or none at all. This might take time for some who are already overwhelmed with decisions regarding their treatment.
For those who are not taking medication, then by implementing the suggestions here, it can help a person to overcome these disorders in a non-pharmaceutical context. So it is hoped that everyone can benefit from this information, whatever personal decisions he or she might make with regards to medication.
Pages Related to Eating Disorders
Eating Disorder Stories - Brave Girl Eating - Book Review
The History and Psychology of 52-year old Barbie - Barbie, Girls and Body Image
New Bulimia Treatment Developed - Science Daily. November 16, 2012. (Off-site)