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Facing the Complexity of Eating Disorders

Posted Oct 29 2010 10:57am


After you’ve experienced an eating disorder – either as the sufferer or as a family member – it’s natural to assume that you know what this syndrome is all about.  And if you’ve succeeded in recovery , you may even feel that you have the answer.  If one particular treatment worked for you, of course you’ll want to encourage others to try that treatment.

But it’s important to remember that all eating disorders are not alike, any more than all sufferers or their families are alike. 

  • Restricting anorexia involves radically different behavior and impulses than bulimia, binge eating, or other less common eating disorders. 
  • Some people will only develop one type of ED, while others will engage in all three at different times. 
  • Eating disorders often overlap with depression and anxiety disorders and other emotional struggles, which sometimes persist even after recovery from the ED.
  • While most people with eating disorders are women, new evidence suggests that one fifth or more are male – and that number is rising.
  • While most symptoms first become apparent during adolescence, an increasing number of younger children are developing eating disorders – as are older adults.
  • In many cases, the family is able and willing to acknowledge the problem and support the best possible treatment protocol; unfortunately, there are also families that cannot or will not admit the sufferer has a problem or that they have any role to play in recovery.

While there is strong evidence for the benefits of EARLY treatment by an experienced eating disorder specialist, there is no one-size-fits-all TYPE of treatment.  Rather, there are many types and elements of treatment that work differently for different individuals.

As I wrote in my last blog, the latest research shows that the Maudsley method of family based therapy may be the most effective treatment for younger anorexic patients whose families are supportive and engaged in the process.  But this should not discourage individuals who do not have supportive families, or whose diagnosis is a different type of ED.

If you are suffering, the important thing is to seek out an experienced professional to help you understand your illness and your best options. To find an eating disorder professional near you, go to

And, for a succinct overview of eating disorders that includes recent research findings, go to:

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