It is human nature to always have hope but when it comes to Anorexia Nervosa, it may seem that there is no hope, especially when your loved one is starving themselves to death right before your very eyes. There is a chance that anorexia recovery is possible, although all too often, there are times when the patient has gone beyond the point of any help at all and it is simply too late to do anything. If the patient has realized that they need help and are willing to acknowledge that fact, the rehabilitation process may begin.
Anorexia intervention is vitally important before the disorder reaches its irreversible final stages. Mid to late stage, but not terminal stage, anorexics have one essential hurdle to cross and that is themselves. After years of self-starvation and brutally excessive exercise, patients have buried themselves deeply in denial that they have the disorder or, if they admit that they do, that somehow they will not die because of it. What has happened to other anorexics will not happen to them.
This is the most frustrating and challenging time for treatment professionals and family members; no amount of incontrovertible medical proof will convince them that they are not starving themselves to death. Neither do they believe what the mirror shows them about their bodies. No amount of begging, chastising or even praying will make an anorexic believe what everyone else knows to be true.
Breaking a dependency is difficult. The mental process as to how such a decision is reached by the sufferer of anorexia is still a mystery. No other person can make the patient see that anorexia is a problem, because in the patient’s mind, he or she does not have a problem. There comes a point when, for some unknown reason, the anorexic finally sees that he or she has to take control of their life back. Do not ask anorexics to put into words why they finally woke up, as they probably would not be able to explain it. It is enough for the patient to know that change has to happen.
When a physician or a mental health professional recognizes that the anorexic has at last overcome denial, they act very swiftly to save the patient’s life before he/she reconsiders! Intensive hospitalization in a specialized eating disorders unit is the only way to treat anorexia. Despite their protests that they can do it on my own, the fact is they cannot, and will quickly fall back into old starvation habits.
A ninety-day stay in the hospital allows the patient to slowly returned to nutritional eating that’s rigorously supervised by hospital staff who literally watch everything the patient eats and drinks. No excuse for not eating is tolerated! The patient is weighed daily, and if necessary, fed via IV tubes until they can tolerate solid food. Stretching and walking in the unit is encouraged, but vigorous exercise is not. Patients are watched carefully after meals in case they run into the bathroom to vomit.
These close restrictions are loosened after the patient has returned to voluntary nutritious eating and can be trusted in the next phase of their recovery which involves intensive, daily individual and group therapy -- even family therapy. Through therapy, the patient attempts to understand why they developed anorexia and how they can maintain recovery. These are very delicate issues that involve self-esteem, body image, and peer pressure, even past childhood trauma of abuse and/or neglect. Co-existing conditions such as depression are treated with medication. Imagine: if these painful issues were discussed by the anorexic as an out-patient, he/she would have little or no 24/7 support system and would likely relapse back into self-starvation. In a secure hospital environment, patients have constant mental health care in case of a crisis.
Does Treatment Work
Eating disorder patients often live as chemically dependent patients in recovery do; one day at a time, ever-vigilant for relapse triggers, reminding themselves that recovery programs “work if you work them.” There is no magic in recovery and relapse prevention, only hard, constant work to keep you alive.