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BODY IMAGE DILEMMAS

We humans all have different ways of coping with the stresses of daily life and the pain from hurtful situations.  In an effort to cope on their own, many men and women create more stress and difficulties for themselves by developing eating disorders.  An eating disorder can be eating too much, not eating enough, binge eating or gourmandising to induce vomiting.  Any of these eating disorders can cause serious illness and even death.

Dr. Sandra Neil has spent many years working successfully with people with eating disorders.  She has assisted them to overcome their fears and enabled them to embrace a rewarding and fulfilling life.  If you believe you have an eating problem, no matter what its cause, you might like to discuss it in a warm trusting environment with someone who understands and can help you.

It is important to recognise that the eating disorders of anorexia and bulimia are disturbances of the self and impulse controls.  Both can seriously affect health and functioning.

Anorexia
Stems from a morbid fear of gaining weight.  Anorexics limit their food intake so severely that they can lose up to 40% of their normal body weight.  Disturbances of the digestive system, lanugo, high activity, denial of illness and in women cessation of periods are some of the major symptoms.  However, because of their distorted body image, anorexics still believe themselves to be over-weight.  Social anorexia is a milder form where weight obsession is the uppermost compulsion.  Anorexia Nervosa is a more serious disorder and is life-threatening.

Bulimia
Is characterised by binge eating large amounts of food high in carbohydrates followed by self-induced vomiting and/or laxative and/or diuretic misuse.  Bulimia sufferers can find themselves the victims of renal failure, cardiac arrest, infection of the pharynx, loss of tooth enamel, potassium deficiency, loss of hair, knuckle calluses, skin disorders and enlarged parotid glands.

The misuse of food, dieting and exercise are common to both Anorexia and Bulimia.  Both disorders are now being successfully treated by trained psychologists using individual or group therapy.

Evaluation
Clients undertaking the programme undergo a comprehensive psychosocial history, a Body Mass Index, and an evaluation and nutritional assessment to provide an overall view of their status.  If medical problems are suspected, a medical consultation will be recommended.  An individualised treatment plan is then designed and implemented by a psychologist, and the initial 8-16 weeks group or individual treatment commenced.

Treatment
Each patient's treatment plan identifies specific behaviour, emotional, social and nutritional goals with regular reviews of progress being made.  Individual and group therapy helps patients resolve emotional conflicts contributing to unhealthy eating habits.  In specialised activities, skills are taught to enable the patient to develop appropriate eating patterns.  Visual body image sessions, to allow for realistic self-examination, are an important component of the programme.  The programme is an effort to increase moral development, differentiation of self from others, increase the ability to cope with stress, modulate anxiety and assert one's self without stepping on other people's toes - in short, to increase the awareness of being one's own person and fulfilling one's potential.

As with any other problem of addiction, Anorexia, Bulimia and other eating disorders give only temporary relief from tensions and frustrations.  More appropriate ways of dealing with such unpleasant feelings are presented and taught in therapy.