Although ED is more common than we think or see in daily life, there is sadly a lack of healthcare professionals who truly 'get it'. Many doctors/nurses think that ED is a problem with the patient and is thus to blame. Others do not know how to help their patients, so they tell them to 'eat higher calorie foods' and to stop 'moving around so much'. Still others think that ED is a phase that people go through.
Why is it so hard to find someone who understands ED and how to treat them? First, ED is not really spoken about in medical school. Sure, they may hear about ED, but students do not really get an opportunity to understand how ED works. They also simply hear that 'food is medicine', but they do not get taught how to deal with a patient who is suffering and desperately needs assistance. Furthermore, many theories about ED are still (sadly) prevelant in today's society, such as the idea that ED results from a bad relationship with one's mother. Because of all this information (which, by the way, is wrong), medical professionals usually do not know how to treat EDs.
But what is a patient to do? Can you leave your doctor and look for one who understands ED? In the perfect world, this would be the solution. But, unforuantely, this is not practical. First, it is unlikely that you will find an ED professional close to your area who can help. Next, you will likely be placed on a long waiting list. Third, these professionals can sometimes be costly if they are not covered by insurance. So what do you do? Well, if possible, educate your doctor. Refer them to resources that can help them understand what ED is and what they can do to help you. If your healthcare professional is willing to do this, then GREAT! If not, they may be able to help you locate other resources or professionals who can help you.
There are a lot of resources out there, so be careful. Some good sites are FEAST, NEDIC, NEDA, etc. (Note: I am not endorsing any of these. They are simply suggestions). Some of the top things that doctors/nurses who work with patients with ED are:
1) It is not the patient's fault. Do not blame them for their illness.
2) Patients need a lot of help. This may include dietary consultation, therapy, or family intervention. Do not think that this will be a temporary 'phase'. It takes a lot of time to help patients recover.
3) Sometimes, patients need hospitalization. There are guidelines that specify what conditions must be met for this to be true. Know what the guidelines are for your province/location.
4) Food is medicine, but patients need more than food. They need care, time, motivation, and hope.
5) Let the patient know that this is a serious illness, but that it can be treated. They will need to work hard, and they might not like (actually, they will probably hate it) treatment. But it will get better.
6) Recovery is not a straight road. It may have good times and bad times. Relapses or mistakes do not mean failure. It simply means that the patient has learned a lesson and will be stronger.
7) Families and friends can be helpful, but make sure that they are supportive and educated about ED.
8) Not all ED patients have comorbid disorders. Medication is not always necessary, so do not assume that you need to medicate your patient for depression simply because they have ED.
9) Patients do not mean to be hard to deal with or difficult. They are scared and frustrated. They will not be excited about eating and gaining weight, so be gentle but firm. Patients need to trust you before they are willing to work with you to get better.
10) Educate yourself. When you get an opportunity to learn about ED, take it. ED is more common than you think. Learn to screen for ED in patients, to recognize warning signs, and to help paients get treatment as soon as possible. You just might be saving lives.