In seeking professional help for the treatment of anorexia and bulimia, it is important to find a therapist who is knowledgeable of the complexities of these syndromes.
While there is some disagreement in which approach is more successful in overcoming these disorders, there is consensus that the most recommended treatment programs combine individual, group and family therapy along with nutritional counseling. Long term and follow-up counseling seems to be preferred. The relationship between the patient and therapist is crucial and without doubt the most significant factor influencing change.
A number of approaches to the treatment of eating disorders can be viewed. I am including a description of some therapeutic modalities available to eating disorder victims.
Eating Disorder Clinics
. Currently associated with universities throughout the country, they have an eclectic approach combined with a structured program that includes lectures, group therapy, assertiveness training, drug therapy and nutritional counseling.
Self Help Groups
. These are often led by a volunteer who has recovered from the disorder. Sessions are usually free. Some psychotherapists prefer to treat eating disorder victims exclusively in a group setting. In some situations support groups for parents of anorectics and bulimics have been established and have proved to be effective. Often group therapy is undertaken as an adjunct to private individual therapy.
. This non-profit organization, patterned after Alcoholics Anonymous, has been helpful as a support system for victims of bulimia. Its focus on outreach and acceptance can help patients improve self esteem and serve as a contact source for those struggling with binging urges.
These are intensive programs designed to help victims of bulimia confront their behavior. These workshops are often scheduled over a weekend with follow up meetings arranged and referrals for long term therapy made. A criticism of these programs is that referrals and follow up are not provided.
. Dynamically oriented therapy which explores inner conflicts and provides insight into problems of low self esteem, guilt, anxiety depression, obsessive-compulsive behavior and a sense of helplessness.
Structural Family Therapy
. Intervention designed to restructure the family system and change the patterns of family interaction, dynamics and enmeshment which maintain the behavior of eating disorder victims.
. An analysis of the antecedents, and consequences of behavior designed to help victims set up strategies to expand their coping skills. Such skills may include cognitive restructuring, thought stopping, relaxation techniques, assertiveness training and positive reinforcement.
. This approach is designed to manipulate and challenge thoughts and attitudes. Patients are provided with information which rationally opposes prevailing beliefs about their helplessness, depression and low self esteem.
The following organizations may be contacted for additional information and materials relating to Anorexia and Bulimia: (Enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope)
American Anorexia Nervosa Association, Inc. (AANA)
133 Cedar Lane
Teaneck, New Jersey 07666
Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders, Inc.
P.O. Box 5102
Eugene, Oregon 97405
Help Anorexia, Inc.
5143 Overland Avenue
Culver City, California
Maryland Association for Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia
222 Gateswood Road
Lutherville, Maryland 21093
National Anorexic Aid Society, Inc. (NAAS)
P.O. Box 29461
Columbus, Ohio 43220
National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and
Related Disorders (ANAD)
Highland Park, Illinois 60035
New York Anorexia and Bulimia Aid
One West 91st Street
New York, New York 10024