Eating Disorders: Overcoming Them (cont.)

warners43: Is it possible to recover from an eating disorder without professional help? Are there any books you could recommend?

Barry Tigay, PhD: Yes, it is possible to recover without professional help. I don't recommend it though. It depends on the severity of the disorder and the level of support, as well as the strength of their personality. A good place to start looking is the article "Triumphant Journey" which is a cyber guide to stop overeating and recover from eating disorders at www.planetpsych.com. You will find other links there for treatment opportunities.

poontaasha: What is the difference between fasting and anorexia?

Barry Tigay, PhD: There may be no difference, though I would consider fasting to be a technique that can be controlled and limited as the person wishes. Many people fast for a day at a time for health purposes or religious purposes, and they control the duration of the fast and return to normal eating patterns normally. If you are unable to do so, this may be a symptom of an unhealthy eating pattern or an eating disorder.

innocent93_99: If someone has been in therapy for three years for anorexia and it has gone no where, what can that mean?

Barry Tigay, PhD: It can mean a lot of things. It is not a good sign. Talk to a therapist about it and set some realistic goals. You might need more therapy. You might need something to supplement therapy, or you might need to find a new therapist. It might take a long time but you should see some progress or be gaining some insight in that length of time.

shyness_11798: Are there any self help groups for eating disorders?

Barry Tigay, PhD: There are quite a few, and I don't wish to recommend them at this time. I think it is important that you get professional help in addition to self-help. I think they could be most likely found on the Internet.

bizkit_babe_23_45: I want to become a psychologist and I have had an eating disorder. Do you think people will be more likely to listen to me about eating disorders because I have been there?

Barry Tigay, PhD: There is some truth to that. If you have successfully overcome this, you will have a lot to offer to the public. You will have some credibility that another person might not have. I hope you have other motivations for wanting to pursue a career in psychology also. It can be very gratifying and you may be able to do a lot of good for a lot of people. Good luck.

pixieshine: Is there such a thing as fat phobic?

Barry Tigay, PhD: In laymen's terms, that is a good description of anorexia. Anorexics generally have an extreme fear of being fat and can perceive themselves as fat even when they are quite undernourished and thin. They may be vigilant and on the look out for the slightest weight gain. They may make extreme judgement of people that are overweight. It may be their greatest fear that they may become overweight.

shady_chic2000: Is it normal to lose a lot of weight and be at a healthy weight, then look in the mirror and think that nothing has changed?

Barry Tigay, PhD: If you are at a healthy weight and you feel that nothing has changed after a great weight loss, you may have some symptoms of a body image distortion. It can take a little time for your self-perception to catch up with the sudden weight loss, but it is something to be concerned with if there is a misperception of body weight. If the weight is in the normal range, the individual has not crossed over into eating disorder territory, but one would hope that in time their self-perception conforms with the reality of their current weight.

innocent93_99: How long does it take to recover from anorexia?

Barry Tigay, PhD: There is no set time. It can be months or years. However, as I mentioned with an earlier question, if it is taking years and you are seeing little or no progress, it is wise to reconsider the therapeutic program and make sure that everything possible is being done.

katey21619: How can I help a friend try to overcome an eating disorder?

Barry Tigay, PhD: The first step is getting professional help. Do not assume that you or your friend can make the diagnosis. Problems with food are widespread. This does not constitute the diagnosis of an eating disorder. If you are unable to get professional help, it would be important to educate yourself about eating disorders. The resources I mentioned earlier are a good way to start. Also, take a look at the therapist directory at www.planetpsych.com.

jojennty: How do you know if you are a compulsive eater or just a normal eater?

Barry Tigay, PhD: One way to check your eating habits is to look at your state of fitness. If you are at the proper weight and you feel strong or energetic, then you probably are eating reasonably well. Another way to look at your eating behavior is to try to access your level of self-control. Can you change and modify your behavior, can you add or limit certain foods, and can you maintain a certain weight? If you are under control and feel healthy, you probably are on solid ground.

marrigold8: What should I look for in a therapist that I go to see?

Barry Tigay, PhD: The first thing to look for is experience with the problem you wish to treat. If you want to treat an eating disorder, make sure the therapist is experienced in that area. Look at their credentials and I would recommend choosing a psychiatrist, psychologist, or social worker. Take a look at www.planetpsych.com in the section on treatments. There you will find a large section about psychotherapy and how to choose a therapist.

tiptopchick: Do you have to be underweight to be diagnosed as having anorexia and getting help?

Barry Tigay, PhD: Yes, the formal diagnosis of anorexia is reserved for those who are underweight. However, there may be individuals who are on their way to developing a problem who have been losing weight rapidly and may be passing through the normal range on their way to a problem. There are bulemics that might maintain a normal or above normal weight that might have an eating disorder.