понеділок, 27 вересня 2010 р.

Eating Disorder, How to React as the Family

It is estimated that about 8 million people in the United States suffer from a form of Eating Disorder, 7 million women and 1 million men. One in 200 women in America is an anorexic, and two to three women out of a  hundred in America are bulimics. Nearly half of all Americans personally know someone who suffers from an Eating Disorder.

These statistics are only from the United States of America, so you can imagine the number of people suffering from an Eating Disorder around the globe.

What causes a person to develop an Eating Disorder is not yet fully understood, however, it has been agreed upon by many experts that one of the causes could be the issue of "control". It is also seen that many of the people suffering from and Eating Disorder are the perfectionist kind, gettiing good grades in school, good in extra curricular activities etc. So it is safe to say that most of these people start developing a feeling that their lives are basically run by the expectations and demands placed on them. Eating Disorders usually start around the age of 14 years to 18 years, however, they could start earlier.

Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa can cause many different problems which include infirtility, ovarian cysts and electrolyte imbalance to name a few. The last one is probably the most dangerous one as it can cause ventricular fibrillation which can lead to cardiac arrest and can cause death, usually while the patient is asleep.

Most people who have a family member suffering from and Eating Disorder get overwhelmed and extremely upset as a first reaction, usually trying to "knock some sense" into the patient. After that comes the research part where they might try to find something out about the problem of their loved one, and that is when the worry kicks in. The hard part is understanding what you can do to help them.

 How Should the Family of a Person Suffering from an Eating Disorder Act and Deal

First thing to do immediately, is to get professional help. But that is not all, a person suffering from an Eating 
Disorder has very deep rooted issues she/he is dealing with, and is going through immense emotional as well as physical pain. A professional will help deal with the physical pain, even a professional psychiatrist might just be able to uncover the deeper issues, but the emotional healing can only begin with the help of the family.

Following are a few things you can do to help:

1- Never taunt them about their problem, even it starts to get on your nerves. The reason for this is that if you taunt or yell, you will only makes things worse for them and eventually for yourself. Usually one of the issues that the patient is dealing with is the issue of acceptance without being perfect. They need to be sure that they are acceptable even if they are not perfect, for which they would sometimes subconsciously do things to provoke you, because they are terrified that tomorrow they might genuinely be less in some respect and would automatically be rejected, and hence they want to just get it over with. It's strange, but it's very true.

2- No lectures, please don't give in to your desire to lecture them, awakening their conscience or sense, that doesn't work. A mind full of confusion and pain is incapable of understanding all that. What you CAN do is let them know that you acknowledge that they have a problem, and encourage them to speak out. Let them know that they can talk about anything they want to with you. They might have many complaints, most of them might even seem baseless to you, but it's essential that they speak out. It will not only give you important insight into what they are going through, it will also give you a hint as to how best their problem can be dealt with and you could speak with the psychiatrist/psychotherapist about it too.

3- Find hobbies for them. I don't mean come home one day with a box of crayons and chart paper. You could start knitting in front of them, ask them what combination they think would look good for this new sweater that you have decided to make, what design, get them involved, gradually you could get to start knitting and it will take up a lot of their time and would help them calm down. Also, creating something beautiful will encourage them and would improve their self esteem. You could also introduce them to photography in the same way, or some puzzle game that would be fun yet challenging that would keep them involved for long hours.

 4- Encourage then when you see improvement. Tell them you are proud of them and that you think they could help other people deal with their Eating Disorders, find online forums for them to join, when they talk to other
people who have similar problems, they will feel they are not alone and also, by helping others, they will feel more in control of their lives and would feel better about themselves.

5- Change what you watch on TV. TV is full of people who seem to be "perfect". Perfect teeth, perfect hair, perfect bodies, perfect careers, perfect love lives, they can make a very healthy person feel bad about her/himself, imagine what it would do to someone with and Eating Disorder. Instead, try to switch to other things that you know might interest them. Programs about building models? cars? The other day I saw this wonderful documentary about four animals' lives from conception to birth. Those people had cameras inside a shark womb and a penguin egg! It was just amazing and kept me glued to the TV for the entire length of the program. Find things like those for them. It might develop their interest in one direction.

6- Encourage their social life. Take their friends into confidence, tell them not to mention the Eating Disorder or to feel sorry for them, but to just come around or take them out, the busier they are with their social life with their close friends, the less time they have to think about their food issues.

7- Give them facts about nutrition and calories. Let them read articles about calories, fats don't mean they will make you "fat", how many calories per day are needed to "survive", what is the normal weight range for people their age and height, so that they know that they are NOT over weight. Tell them how their hair gets thinner without proper nutrition and what they need to eat to make sure they have healthy hair. It is shown that most anorexics and bulimics actually are encouraged to eat better for the sake of their hair. They need to have the facts, being objective about things can help. But please, don't think that once would do it, you will probably have to remind them ten times a day.


8- It is essential that you understand what they are actually going through. An anorexic or a bulimic does not have a normal appetite/satiety cycle. They cannot accurately tell when they are hungry, bulimics find it hard to tell whether it's hunger that they are feeling or is it another "binge purge attack" coming up. What you can do is that when they are calm, you can ask them to come to you the next time they feel like eating. Tell them you will not stop them from doing what it is that they want to do, but you just want them to tell you. When they do come to you, you can ask them when was the last time they actually had something to eat, help them calculate the number of calories they have had, tell them that even if they want to eat lesser calories than are required even for "survival", they have a margin and they can eat.. say.. an apple without having to throw it up or without feeling guilty.

9- Encourage them to earn money. And that too through things they make themselves, encourage them to make and sell things. They can turn their hobby into a small business, this will keep them involved and the money that comes in would be a good reward.

10- Last but not least, you might have to hospitalize them. This is a matter of life and death and should not be taken lightly. The above mentioned ideas could help make this easier, or they could help deal with the problem at home. But whether they need to be hospitalized, or you decide they should stay at home, remember that it's going to take time.

I myself am a recovering anorexic bulimic. I had an attack of ventricular fibrillation when I was 22 and when taken to the hospital, I had dilated pupils, no pulse, no breathing. I was pronounced dead after they gave me a couple of shocks with the defibrillator, my mom refused to give up and on her demand they tried one more shock and I came back to life. I know what it feels like to suffer from an eating disorder, and trust me, it's not all about losing weight to look your best.

I hope this article would help some people out their who have a loved one who is suffering and they don't have a clue what they should do and are in a dilemma, like my family was. I have listed things that helped me the most. I still have not regained my normal menstural cycle, I might never be able to have a baby, and I might have pushed myself into early osteoporosis, but I'm alive, happier and healthier than I was before, and I am hopeful.

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