What could be more natural than eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are full? That simple approach is far from easy for many people. Hunger and eating get disconnected in eating disorders. How can these complex problems be recognized and treated?
Many people think of anorexia nervosa as the classic eating disorder. But while anorexia is potentially deadly, it is the least common. The most common eating disorder? Binge eating, in which the person feels out of control. Tendencies towards these problems can set in surprisingly early, affecting young children as well as teens.
Growing older does not confer immunity to eating disorders. Middle-aged people and even geriatric patients may develop difficulties matching what they eat to what their bodies need. Such eating problems have both metabolic and psychiatric dimensions.
Current treatments involve the entire family or both members of a couple. The idea is to develop a unified strategy to re-nourish the child, if the patient is a child. Developing good support and coping strategies that work at the moment of high-risk stress is essential in treating adults.
Cynthia M. Bulik, PhD, FAED, is Distinguished Professor of Eating Disorders in the Department of Psychiatry and Professor of Nutrition at the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She holds the first endowed professorship in eating disorders in the United States and is founding director of the UNC Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders.
Dr. Bulik is author of Eating Disorders: Detection and Treatment; Runaway Eating: The 8 Point Plan to Conquer Adult Food and Weight Obsessions; Abnormal Psychology (co-author); Crave: Why You Binge Eat and How to Stop; The Woman in the Mirror: How to Stop Confusing What You Look Like with Who You Are; and Midlife Eating Disorders. Her most recent book is Binge Control.
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