Treating Eating Disorders: The Significant Role Of Parents In Combating Anorexia And Bulimia

By John Drowne, Parent Herald June 10, 03:00 am

Treating eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa can be challenging given the fact that little is known about their cause. The mortality rate of eating disorders has been very alarming in the past years, prompting authorities to try harder in tracing their cause and in discovering treatments.

Experts have always acknowledged that parents play a significant role in treating eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. But do parents fully understand why?

Parents' Significant Role In Combating Eating Disorders

According to the National Eating Disorders Association, there are 20 million women and 10 million men in the United States who suffer from anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating or OSFED (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified) at some point in their life. Unfortunately, most cases of eating disorders are likely not to be reported and oftentimes, parents and family members are among the last people to know when a loved one suffers from the illness.

To help combat eating disorders, Psych Central stated that parents should be aware of the warning signs of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Warning signs for anorexia nervosa include extreme weight loss and diet obsession. Moreover, symptoms of bulimia nervosa include unfinished meals, long bathroom hours, and visible indications like broken blood vessels in the eyes, swollen glands in the neck and scrapes.

Early detection can go a long way in treating eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Mental Health America emphasized that chances of full recovery from eating disorders are higher when a person receives treatment as soon as possible. Therefore, it is important for parents or family members to immediately talk to a doctor when noticing symptoms of anorexia or bulimia from their children.

Treating Eating Disorders With Parents

There are several treatment options for eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, and most of them are focused on restoring the patients' weight and eating habits before treating the psychological aspects of the illness. For children and teenagers, one of the most recommended treatment methods is the Family Based Treatment or the Maudsley method.

According to Sue Byrne, associate professor at the University of Western Australia who treats and studies eating disorders, Family Based Treatment often starts with the patient and their parents or family members. She said that under the Maudsley method, parents will be educated how serious anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa is. To ensure that the patient will get all the needed nutrition to regain good health, parents will also be taught how to firmly yet positively encourage the patient to eat.

Byrne said that treating eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa is an uphill battle at the beginning. However, with the help of parents or family members, the chances of recovery are higher.

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