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A common challenge
We all must eat to live, and yet for that very reason eating has become a focus for many of our most complex life challenges. Some, of course, seem simple: how to feed a family when the youngest will only eat chicken nuggets and the oldest has decided to go vegan. Unfortunately, food and eating also present us with some of our most severe behavioral dysfunctions, threatening life and health in many different ways. These include:
- Eating: necessity, compulsion, control
- Learning to undo the damage
- Facing a life-long challenge
Eating dysfunctions across America
Once, there seemed to be no such thing as “eating disorders.” Then doctors began to recognize and discuss a serious, life-threatening disorder: anorexia. This common disorder caused otherwise healthy young women and men to starve themselves, often ending in death. Soon, bulimia joined anorexia as a topic of concern: victims would suffer starvation and then gorging, often compensating for over-indulgence through forced vomiting, or through the use of laxatives to force the body to purge food before digesting it. In time it was realized that overeating, too, was a true clinical disorder. Then, various compulsive eating behaviors were added, and it became evident that eating and how we handle it, mentally or culturally, isn’t as simple as we had once thought.
Undoing the damage to mind and body
Eating disorders do enormous damage to the bodies of those who suffer and the causes for the disorders have damaged the mind. Living with these disorders causes still more emotional damage. To cope with the many injuries inflicted on mind and body through eating disorders requires a skilled and sympathetic counselor, and is often a very difficult and drawn out process.
Eating, like breathing, is essential. Unlike drug addiction, the victim can’t give up eating to avoid the problems associated with the action. To eat well, and yet eat only enough, is like walking a tightrope wire for many people. Some fall off one way, some fall off another, more still try to maintain control and balance through many dysfunctional techniques – and no one can walk away from the challenge and live.
Counseling helps a patient pick apart the complicated emotional links that lead to destructive eating habits. The process provides a safe place for examination, reconsideration, as well as for self-training, and re-conditioning.
Life long challenges
Much like drug addictions, eating disorders can offer life-long challenges to those who suffer with them. Counseling can provide the tools needed to carry on in this discipline. Counseling can also help as a victim slowly rebuilds not only the mind, but the body, re-structuring their lives a step at a time to regain the health and hope that seemed certain in childhood.
Finding a counselor or program
Finding a specific counselor, or a program addressing eating disorders, can be a challenge. This field attracts so many outright fakes, quacks and scam artists that filtering out the dangerous practitioners and leaving only the stable, secure counselors, coaches and nutritionists who can help a person with an eating dysfunction can be tough. A good way to begin, if you’re uncertain, is to make use of a good referral agency. These professional have already weeded out the bad choices, and can act as supportive advisers when helping you choose a good practitioner or program that’s best for you.
If you or someone you know suffers from an eating disorder, don’t hesitate to find help. The longer you wait, the worse the damage can become.