Thursday, June 18, 2009

Anorexia's Lifelong Legacy

An article in the Sydney Morning Herald, written by Thea O'Connor, highlights the fact that eating disorders, particularly among boys, are difficult to diagnose and treat.

All too often, a child can display the signs of an eating disorder, however, not be taken seriously until the situation becomes life-threatening.

Significant gaps in community awareness and the health-care system, coupled with a generic diagnostic tool, means many cases are not diagnosed until the illness has taken hold - with disastrous consequences.

A study published in the Medical Journal Of Australia this year found that boys suffering an eating disorder were more likely than girls to remain undiagnosed until they experienced potentially life-threatening medical complications.

Dr Sloane Madden, child psychiatrist at the Children's Hospital at Westmead, says "Doctors are not expecting to see boys with eating disorders, so they are picked up later." Dr Madden is quoted extensively in my recently published book Why Can't I Look the Way I Want; Overcoming Eating Issues, and highlights that serious complications can be prevented if the illness is picked up early. "If children get the right treatment early, 70 to 80 per cent get well in 12 months and 90 per cent are better in five years. This is much better than in adults where the recovery rate at five years is less than 50 per cent," says Madden, an advocate of The Maudsley Model of family-oriented treatment.

Why Can't I Look the Way I Want; Overcoming Eating Issues provides a detailed account of The Maudsley Model, the current treatment of choice for children. It involves the family working together over a year to overcome the anorexia their child is experiencing.

Despite appearances, eating disorders are not about food. "If you look behind the dieting behaviour, you'll find high levels of stress and anxiety," Dr Michael Kohn, a pediatrician at the Children's Hospital at Westmead, says. "I suspect that the increased stress levels I'm seeing in young children are making them more vulnerable to picking up on dieting strategies and media messages about weight and appearance."

To read the article go here:

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