Saturday, February 5, 2011

Do these bones make me look fat?

How unhealthy relationships can maintain a deadly illness

6-12 February is a National Eating Disorders Awareness Week in Canada as announced by Canadian Mental Health Association. This event aims at providing information on eating disorders and dieting, encouraging individuals and their families to acknowledge the problem and seek help, provoking changes in social attitudes and celebrate the natural diversity of body sizes.

Why is it so important to be aware of eating disorders?

Anorexia, bulimia and binge eating are becoming increasingly common, particularly in westernised countries, and are affecting younger people, also males. Eating disorders are associated with several complications, including osteoporosis, infertility, tooth loss, kidney failure or cardiac arrest. The most dangerous of eating disorders, Anorexia, has the highest mortality rate among psychiatric problems. 5% of all patients will die prematurely.
Anorexia is a deadly illness.

The beginnings of an eating disorder are often benign - a young person wants to lose weight to look better. But somehow they don't stop when they reach their goal.
WHY? What keeps this battle with their own body going?

As with any mental illness, it is impossible to pinpoint a cause or a reason for a person to develop this particular problem. Instead, we look at the predisposing (what we are born with), precipitating (triggers) and perpetuating (maintaining) factors in the bio-psycho-social model.

We don't have any influence over our predisposing factors, we can't turn back the time and avoid triggers, but we can try to change what keeps it going.

What keeps anorexia going?

What are the kind of interpersonal relationship that maintain the deadly course of anorexia?
1. Overprotection (kangaroo strategy) - too much emotions and too much controlWrapping the sufferer in cotton wool or treating them with kid gloves can make the sufferer feel suffocated, disempowered, unable to grow and become self-efficient. This approach reinforces the vicious cycle of co-dependency and 'eternal infant' feeling.

2. Criticism (rhinoceros strategy) - too much logic and too little warm emotionsUnfortunately, logical arguments about food and weight can't win with the illness. The sufferer's mind is so affected by starvation, it believes you inhale calories from the aroma of food or absorb them through the skin. Shouting and attempts to control the sufferer's behaviours may make them more rebellious and resistant.

3. Anxiety and hostility (jellyfish strategy) - with too much emotions and too little controlBursing into tears, cutting the family off the world, being angry, self-blame or attempts at being a perfect parent won't work either. This approach can make the sufferer feel bad for causing so much stress to the family, so they may avoid contact and stop telling the family what is happening.

4. Disengagement (ostrich strategy) - too little emotions and too much controlAvoiding talking about the problems at all not only reduces the chances of the sufferer receiving help, but also makes them feel unloved and worthless.

Which approaches do work?
* Just enough caring and control (dolphin strategy)
* Just enough compassion and consistency (St Bernard's strategy)
source: Treasure J., Schmidt U, Macdonald P. The Clinician's Guide to Collaborative Caring in Eating Disorders.

Here are links to trusted sites with more information on Anorexia, Bulimia and overcoming Eating disorders

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