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What to Expect from Anorexia Nervosa Treatment

Sep 15, 2008
The treatment for anorexia nervosa is often difficult and can take a long time. Some patients improve much slower then others do with many relapses during the recovery process. The treatment can be subdivided into immediate or long term anorexia treatment.

The immediate concerns of most people who present with anorexia nervosa is always low weight, nutrition balance and complications (like organs failure) due to long term starvation. All these have to be addressed first before long term psychological treatment can begin.

Some people who are a danger to themselves because they refuse to eat have to be hospitalized until they gain enough body weight to maintain their life. Many of these patients will need to have intravenous injections of highly nutritious products to replace their nutritional losses. If attempts to feed them fail they may need a tube inserted into their stomach to improve their nutritious status. The lengths of these treatments can vary depending on how the patients progress.

Long time psychological treatment should start while in the hospital. A team of professionals are normally involved including psychologists, counselors, social workers, nutritionists and medical doctors.

The team has to be very supportive and cooperative in their attempts to persuade the sufferer to take the treatment seriously and understand the importance of it. Many patients have to be forced into treatment against their desires (like emergency and life saving situations due to starvation and organs failure). This can hamper the sufferer's willingness for treatment in the first instance; but by building a trusting and supportive relationship with a patient over time can help to breakdown this barrier.

Psychotherapy starts when a trusting relationship with the patient has been established. A number of issues have to be addressed: body image, anxiety, depression, fears, eating habits and other concerns. The most difficult one is the body image issue because the person is absolutely obsessed with being thin and staying thin. Putting on weight which is crucial for recovery can become a major fear for the sufferer that is difficult to overcome.

Personality issues, coping strategies, relationship problems - all have to be looked at in the therapy sessions with the patient.

Lots of people improve by the time of their discharge from the hospital but the treatment for anorexia nervosa should not finish there. Relapses at home after hospitalization is extremely common, over 95% of all sufferers have some kind of problem. Actually much more people do relapse than those who do not, a scary statistic for the sufferer.

And here is where research has shown that family therapy and home treatments should be the first choice of help after leaving the hospital or clinic. Research has shown now that if a person does not have good home support and family involvement in their treatment, the person has a very slim chance for recovery.

Many parents and family members have no idea what it is they are supposed to do to help: what they should say to the sufferer and what they should not. Most uninformed family members still think that all the sufferer has to do is eat, and everything will be okay: but of course this is totally wrong.

Also family members do not know what kind of atmosphere in the house they should create to support the sufferer and make her/him understand that recovery is possible. It is here that most sufferers relapse because they are normally left to their own devices, simply because no one else has the slightest idea of what to do.
About the Author
Dr Irina Webster MD is the Director of Women Health Issues Program. She is a recognised athority in the eating disorders area. She is an author of many books and a public speaker.To learn more about anorexia nervosa treatment go to http://www.mom-please-help.com
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