Science cannot tell us with absolute certainty what causes eating disorders. Genetics and biology are key factors, and events such as teasing, bullying, medical illnesses and trauma may trigger eating disorders, as well. Eating disorders often occur alongside other illnesses, like alcohol or substance use, anxiety and depression. They grow within a culture that values one life over another and stigmatizes bodies through racism, homophobia, sexism, poverty and more.
Not only are these potentially deadly illnesses, but they also damage every piece of the body from the immune system to the heart and bones and everything in between. Normal blood work and lab results may be found in some patients, and those who suffer may fiercely believe “it’s not that bad.” However, their health is in danger now and for the rest of their life.
Only 10 percent of those with an eating disorder receive treatment. Treatment relies on a multidisciplinary team of providers; you do not have to take on this fight on your own. Every team member is vital to taking your recovery into the real world – you, as the expert in your own life; a physician and nursing support to watch over your health; a dietitian not to teach what to eat, but to help you dramatically alter your relationship with food; a psychiatrist or nurse practitioner to treat co-occurring conditions like depression and anxiety; and a psychologist or therapist to help you and your family find healing and a life worth living.
If you remember any number at all, make it this one – with effective treatment, 60 percent of those with eating disorders reach full recovery. Know that whether you appear healthy (or not), it doesn’t seem “that bad” or you aren’t sure if you can afford it, recovery is possible.
About the Author
Dr. Jenny Copeland, Clinical Psychologist, practices at Ozark Center. Dr. Copeland specializes in the treatment of eating disorders. She has extensive experience in psychological assessment and treatment of people with diverse clinical concerns. Visit ozarkcenter.com to learn more about Ozark Center services.