Counseling Center- Self Help
Do you know someone who has an eating disorder? (TOP)
First of all, what is an intervention? Sometimes we worry about someone when that person doesn't seem to be willing to acknowledge a problem. An intervention is a way to help that individual. It is an active confrontation of specific behaviors by caring others and is designed to increase awareness of problem behaviors, to prevent problems from becoming worse, and to promote referral for further assessment and possible treatment. An intervention takes advantage of a unique opportunity to really make a difference and to help someone you care about.
Eating Disorders (TOP)
Some behaviors which may require an intervention are related to food, eating, dieting and exercise. Many of us occasionally use food in ways that are not beneficial to us. It is common to overeat for pure enjoyment or in response to stress. It is also common to try to lose weight, sometimes in a manner that is harmful to our bodies. Occasional overeating or dieting does not result in a serious problem for most people. However, certain predictable patterns may develop in some individuals which are cause for serious concern.
An eating disorder is a pattern of food abuse with harmful physical and psychological consequences. Ninety to ninety-five percent of those with eating disorders are female. Probably this is due in part to an exaggerated emphasis on thinness in our culture. This problem is more common among groups such as dancers, gymnasts, and wrestlers for whom a certain body weight is seen as essential. Both overeaters and undereaters equate self-esteem with body shape, use excessive measures for weight control and are frequently preoccupied with food, with high standards for themselves, and with the use of either overeating or restrictive dieting or exercise as a way to cope with problems.
Anorexia Nervosa (TOP)
Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by an intense fear of weight gain, a disturbance of body image ("feels fat" even when emaciated), and extreme weight loss which is achieved by restrictive diet, extensive exercise, and sometimes by self-induced vomiting or use of laxatives or diuretics. Peculiar patterns of handling food may be observed. The individual may be noticeable underweight, have sensitivity to cold, absent or irregular menstrual periods, depression, and other serious medical problems. She will usually be socially withdrawn and deny any problems. This is a serious condition which requires attention by physical and mental health professionals. Without intervention, anorexia nervosa can result in death.
Bulimia Nervosa (TOP)
Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by repeated episodes of binge eating (either rapid consumption of a large amount of food or the subjective experience that the amount eaten is a binge) usually followed by self-induced vomiting or the use of diuretics or laxatives or excessive exercise. Weight may remain normal or fluctuate due to alternating binges and fasts. Frequently, high-caloric, easily ingested food (e.g., ice cream) is consumed in secret. The individual is aware that the eating pattern is not normal, fears loss of control, and feels very guilty and depressed about the eating behavior. Consequently, there are sometimes thoughts of suicide as a solution to the problem. Harmful physical effects can occur which will vary in severity depending upon individual circumstances: erosion of tooth enamel, sores in the mouth, digestive tract damage, electrolyte imbalance, irritation of throat and esophagus, burst blood vessels in the face, irregular menstrual cycle. Bulimia nervosa typically requires professional medical and psychological attention.
How to help someone who appears to have an eating disorder: (TOP)
You cannot make someone stop a pattern of food abuse, but you can let the individual know that you care and encourage that person to seek professional help. Don't be judgmental. Express your concern and back it up by your knowledge of the symptoms of eating disorders. Let the individual know that eating disorders can be treated by physical and mental health professionals working together.
The Intervention Process: (TOP)
- examine your own values and attitudes about the problem and about the individual
- become informed about the problem
- develop the skills and a plan to communicate your concern -should you be the person to intervene? -who else should be involved? -express your caring and concern -be specific in your examples of problem behaviors -do not "label" or criticize
- learn about appropriate referral sources and help the individual to make and keep an appointment; provide support during treatment
- do not be discouraged if the intervention doesn't work
- get help for yourself if you are negatively affected by your relationship with the person who has the problem
- serious medical risk, as in anorexia nervosa or suicidal plans, may require forced hospitalization. Call the police or your local Crisis Prevention Center if you are concerned about suicide.
(Prepared by: Elizabeth Yarris, Ph.D., BGSU Counseling Center and Ross J. Rapaport, Ph.D., Central Michigan University Counseling Center)