Get Help for an Eating Disorder: The Sooner the Better

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Get Help for an Eating Disorder: The Sooner the Better

by Karen Giles-Smith

You may wonder why a person with an eating disorder can’t simply “snap out of it.” On the surface, the cure seems easy: “Just eat,” or “Stop overeating,” or “Stop purging.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

Eating disorders are disorders of eating behavior that involve much more than food and eating. They are complex psychological disorders with serious medical complications. The health and wellbeing of a person with an eating disorder must be taken very seriously. (For signs and symptoms of eating disorders, visit

Eating disorders can lead to long-term medical complications such as stunted growth, fractures, osteoporosis, gastrointestinal issues, poor dental health, reproductive issues, kidney failure, heart failure; and even death. Some readers may remember the singer Karen Carpenter who died from complications of anorexia nervosa. Family members of singer Amy Winehouse believe that bulimia nervosa was the primary cause of her death.

Getting psychological, medical and nutritional care is crucial to recovery — the sooner the better. Early intervention is the best way to improve outcomes for all types of eating disorders. For example, anorexia nervosa has one of the highest death rates of all mental health conditions: Up to 20% of those with anorexia nervosa will die (National Eating Disorders Association). However, 50-60% recover – better recovery rates are seen in younger people and those with a shorter duration of the illness when diagnosed (Academy for Eating Disorders).

According to the Renfrew Center Foundation for Eating Disorders, those with eating disorders are best served by an interdisciplinary team that includes a psychotherapist, nutritionist/dietitian, psychiatrist and physician.

If you believe that you or a loved one may have an eating disorder, don’t delay – seek or suggest professional help for evaluation and treatment immediately. For suggestions about how to start the conversation, visit

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