News from May 2018

How to Ask the Right Questions: Practical Steps for Healthcare Professionals

May 31st, 2018

As a healthcare professional, it can be difficult to know how to ask the right questions when you suspect that your patient may have an eating disorder. As with most health-related concerns, it is important to remember that patients are often sensitive or resistant toward any sort of illness they may be facing. Compassion and gentleness are necessary if you hope to receive honest feedback and cooperation from your client.

Healthcare providers must be the first to create a safe space. While we don’t want to assume that someone does, indeed, have an eating disorder, we do want to be sure that if that is the case, we are referring them to the right kind of specialized care.

Taking proactive steps in recognizing the signs and symptoms, and preparing the right questions, will assure that you are providing the best possible care for your client.

Educate yourself

There are a number of resources available that outline the different warning signs of an eating disorder. You do not have to specialize in eating disorders to equip yourself with tools to identify symptoms in your patients. 

Most of us do not include visits to an eating disorder specialist in our regular healthcare routine. Patients often do not see a specialist until the disorder is well under way. Therefore, it is important for primary healthcare providers to serve as lookouts for warning signs and refer patients to an equipped treatment center.

Ask the right questions

If you notice that your patient shows signs of an eating disorder, such as dramatic weight loss, preoccupation with weight, food, calories, etc., refusal to eat certain foods or food groups, anxiety about weight-gain, denial of hunger, development of food rituals or excessive exercise, it may be time to ask more targeted questions.

But how do you know which questions to ask if you do not specialize in eating disorders?

Dr. Teri McCann, Founder and Clinical Director at Fairhaven Treatment Center, has stated that the S.C.O.F.F. questionnaire/screening tool (though not a diagnostic tool) is helpful in identifying those at risk for anorexia or bulimia – and can identify the need to contact a treatment professional for a more detailed assessment.

Asking the following questions can help give you a better idea as to whether a client is developing an eating disorder.

  • S – Do you make yourself Sick because you feel uncomfortably full?
  • C – Do you worry you have lost Control over how much you eat?
  • O – Have you recently lost Over 14 pounds in a three-month period?
  • F – Do you believe yourself to be Fat when others say you are too thin?
  • F – Would you say Food dominates your life?

Proceed with care

Remember that an eating disorder is more than an obsession with food. It is a complex illness that affects both physical and mental health in a dramatic way. Healthcare professionals play a unique role in the life and wellbeing of their clients, and it’s imperative to approach those with eating disorders with the utmost care and compassion. It is more than the choice to eat healthier or simply gain weight. An eating disorder is a mental trauma that must be navigated carefully and patiently.

Once you have identified the warning signs and asked the proper questions, you can then refer your patient to an expert to receive more specialized care.

If you are a healthcare provider and have recognized warning signs of an eating disorder in your client, please contact Fairhaven Treatment Center.

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Eating Disorders: The Dangers of Self-Treatment and the Need for Professional Help

May 24th, 2018

Taking the first step to begin recovery from an eating disorder requires immense courage. There are a number of intervention methods for eating disorders, and each requires compassion above all. Often times, those who live with an eating disorder feel like a burden to the people around them, and therefore, attempt self-treatment. Self-treatment may seem completely possible, especially when you believe you are in control of your mind and body. However, there are several reasons to consider seeking professional help.

According to the National Eating Disorders Collaboration, the earlier professional help is sought, the shorter the duration of the disorder, and the greater likelihood of a full recovery. This is not to suggest that there are not methods of self-treatment that can assist in the recovery process. Instead, it is to suggest that there is no need to embark on the journey alone.

It is important to be aware of the potential dangers of self-treatment in order to know when it’s time to seek professional help.

You may not be aware of your needs. It’s difficult to see the full scope of a situation when you’re in the middle of it. You may feel fine, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that your body and/or mind are receiving everything that they need to recover. Seeking help from a professional can take off the pressure of spotting every need for yourself.

Professionals know and can recommend effective methods of treatment. Therapists, clinicians and health care professionals can prepare you with practical steps to take in your recovery process. Their specialized training enables them to help get to the root cause of what led to an eating disorder, while prescribing the appropriate treatment. They can also monitor both your physical and psychological health and equip you with coping mechanisms to ensure that your recovery is complete and permanent. While you may know what works for you, professionals know the science behind the condition, which is an incredibly valuable resource.

Guessing your needs can sometimes cause more damage. Self-treatment poses the risk of physically issuing yourself the wrong treatment, or mentally causing more trauma by doing it alone. Without an outside (and professional) perspective, it’s more likely that you will undergo more trials and setbacks in your recovery before finding out what works. Professionals can cut out a substantial amount of time and trial-and-error from your recovery.

Self-treatment could lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms like self-harm or isolation. Recovery is an emotional, taxing process that is not meant to be endured alone. Needing help does not mean that you are weak! The pressures of self-treatment alone are more likely to lead to harmful coping mechanisms, like cutting or depression, than undergoing treatment with a professional and a supportive community.

Speaking of isolation, when you cut your journey off from others who can help, you start to believe that no one will ever be able to understand or help. What we often don’t realize in recovery is that the people around us want to help. We need a circle of support to encourage us forward, pick us up on a bad day, empathize with our struggle and remind us of what we’re fighting for.

Seeking professional help takes courage. Reaching out takes strength. Committing to a journey of recovery takes bravery and boldness. What you may not hear enough is that taking those steps is beautiful and admirable. You are never alone, and you are never too far from help or encouragement.

If you are in need of professional help for an eating disorder, contact Fairhaven Treatment Center at 901.757.7979.

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