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Early Treatment Key for Eating Disorders: Don't Ignore the Signs

PHOTO: The most common eating disorders are anorexia, bulimia and binge eating and the conditions can lead to serious health problems and even death if untreated. Photo credit: Charlotte Astrid/Flickr.
PHOTO: The most common eating disorders are anorexia, bulimia and binge eating and the conditions can lead to serious health problems and even death if untreated. Photo credit: Charlotte Astrid/Flickr.
February 23, 2015

FARGO, N.D. – Like many other conditions, when it comes to eating disorders, early intervention is key to recovery for those struggling with these potentially life-threatening problems.

Stephen Wonderlich, co-director of the Eating Disorders Institute in Fargo, says only a small percentage of those with eating disorders seek help, as some don't view the condition as serious, while others don't have access to this type of care, especially in rural settings.

"So, it's hard to get treatment,” he points out. “Another factor is a lot of mental health professionals have not received specialty training to treat these people. Couple that with stigma, and the number of this population that actually gets specialty care that would be recommended is quite low."

In the U.S., it's estimated that 30 million people will be affected by an eating disorder at some point in their lives, with anorexia, bulimia and binge eating the most common.

Wonderlich also notes that the treatment for eating disorders needs to go beyond the binge eating or excessive dieting or exercise, as there are often other co-occurring mental health issues.

"The most common are depression, anxiety disorders and substance use disorders,” he explains. “And it's really reasonable to think that about 80 percent of eating disordered people will meet criteria for at least one other major psychiatric syndrome."

This is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week.


John Michaelson, Public News Service - ND