New guide for recovering from eating disorders

Why do young people develop eating disorders and how can they recover from them? That is what clinical psychologist Greta Noordenbos analyses in her book, 'Recovery from Eating Disorders'. 'Emotional recuperation is a prerequisite for real recovery,' she argues.

Patient’s perspective is key

This book, translated from the Dutch, is a clearly written guide for patients and care workers. Noordenbos focuses on the perspective of the patient, and her argument is laced with numerous quotations from patients and ex-patients. This gives the reader a better understanding of these complex disorders. She outlines how some young people develop dangerous eating patterns, and sketches the often long road to recovery. Not everyone with an eating disorder recovers; some patients die.

Low self-esteem

Eating disorders occur most often in girls and adolescents and are often a consequence of low self-esteem. These young people are highly dependent on the opinions of others and have negative thoughts about their bodies, feelings that are frequently paired with perfectionism. Their fixation on their bodies leads to an obsession with becoming thinner. They do this by eating extremely little (anorexia) or by alternating binge eating with vomiting (bulimia). It is a way of being able to exercise control over something, at least.

Reaching rock bottom

The sooner the problem is recognised, the shorter the road to recovery. But sometimes a young person will go on until they reach, or nearly reach, the absolute limit. When does a patient with an extreme eating disorder realise that something needs to change? When they hit rock bottom, writes Noordenbos. When there is no more weight to be lost and the young person’s figure has become skeletal, and when many physical complaints begin to occur. Generally at this stage the young person is no longer functioning normally and is often in debt due to purchasing expensive laxatives and weight loss drugs.

Emotional recovery is a prerequisite

The road to recovery is usually paired with doubts and relapse. A great deal has to be learned, such as normal eating habits and positive assessment of the body. For a long time, writes Noordenbos, it was thought that everything would be fine again once the eating habits were reasonably back to normal and the patient more or less accepted her own body. But after this the patient has to work on emotional recovery. She has to regain her self-confidence and become less dependent on the approval of others. This is an important prerequisite for recovery. Indeed, coming up against old problems often means lapsing into old strategies when no new ones have been learned.

Dr Greta Noordenbos
Recovery from Eating Disorders. A Guide for Clinicians and their Clients.
ISBN 978 -1-118-46920-0

(25 February 2013)

Last Modified: 25-02-2013