While the physical and emotional consequences of anorexia can be devastating, the good news is that it’s a treatable condition. With the right treatment team, people with anorexia can and do get better. They can regain their health, learn to eat normally again, and develop healthier attitudes about food and their bodies.
Since anorexia involves both mind and body, both attitudes and behaviors, a team approach is often best. Those who may be involved in anorexia treatment include medical doctors, mental health professionals, and dieticians. The participation and support of family members also makes a big difference in anorexia treatment success.
There are different types of therapy available for treatment:
Cognitive therapy explores the critical and unhealthy thoughts underlying anorexia. The focus is on increasing self-awareness, challenging distorted beliefs, and improving self-esteem and sense of control. Cognitive therapy also involves education about anorexia.
Behavioral therapy promotes healthy eating behaviors through the use of rewards, reinforcements, self-monitoring, and goal setting. Teaches the patient to recognize anorexia triggers and deal with them using relaxation techniques and coping strategies.
Group therapy allows people with anorexia to talk with each other in a supervised setting. Helps to reduce the isolation many anorexics may feel. Group members can support each other through recovery and share their experiences and advice.
Family therapy examines the family dynamics that may contribute to anorexia or interfere with recovery. Often includes some therapy sessions without the anorexic patient—a particularly important element when the person with anorexia denies having an eating disorder.
Encouraging an anorexic friend or family member to get treatment is the most caring and supportive thing you can do. But because of the defensiveness and denial involved in anorexia, you’ll need to tread lightly. Waving around articles about the dire effects of anorexia or declaring “You’ll die if you don’t eat!” probably won’t work. A better approach is to gently express your concerns and let the person know that you’re available to listen. If your loved one is willing to talk, listen without judgment, no matter how out of touch the person sounds.
You can also seek advice from a health professional, even if your friend or family member won’t. And you can bring others—from peers to parents—into the circle of support. You can also help by being a good role model for healthy eating, exercising, and body image. Don’t make negative comments about your own body or anyone else’s. And whatever you do: don’t turn into the food police. A person with anorexia needs support, not an authority figure standing over the table with a calorie counter.
If your friend or family member won’t listen or doesn’t want to take the steps towards recovery, it may be time to step in and seek professional help. We have an anorexia center in our backyard. Centers For Change, located in Orem, UT. is a leading residential center for eating disorders and is considered to be one of the top eating disorder treatment centers and has even been featured on Dr. Phil.
There are also many other tips available for treatment and therapy centers available on credible sites such as NAMI and ANAD. Online support groups are also available such as this site – The World’s Largest ED Support Group where both anorexics and recovery supporters can voice their thoughts and concerns.
The important concept to remember as a friend or family member is to be supportive, openminded, and loving. Having a compassionate friend or family member is helpful no matter what situation you’re going through, and people in their most vulnerable states need to know that they are surrounded by people who love and do not cast judgement on their situation.