Eating distress awareness


Sir, - I would like to make a few important points in response to the article on Eating Disorders (December 4th). When a person suffers from a potentially serious physiologically damaging illness, such as anorexia or bulimia nervosa, a medical doctor should always be the first to be consulted for medical assessment.

To state that eating problems have "absolutely nothing to do with food", is to totally ignore the individual's way of surviving in a world that is completely beyond their control. The only area of their life they have experienced control over is the amount of food that they ingest. This is part of who they are when presenting for help and must be treated as such. Only then can they feel safe in moving away from it. No two sufferers are the same and their recovery and treatment approach must always be individualistic and belong to them.

We all agree that psychiatric hospitals are not appropriate environments for treatment, but some hospitals have come a long way and are offering very successful programmes of intervention and treatment for those whose lives are at risk, due to physical damage and critical weight loss. But the great majority of people suffering from eating disorders/problems never require in-hospital treatment.

Research has shown that the most reliable approach to the treatment of these problems is the team-approach, which includes a medical doctor or psychiatrist, dietician, and qualified counsellor or psychologist.

I would seriously question the statement that three-year-old children are presenting with eating disorders. Children of such a young age should always be seen by a paediatrician. Food avoidance and picky eating do not have the same meaning in early childhood as they do in adolescence or adulthood. Treating children is vastly different from treating adults and this should be acknowledged.

There are excellent organisations in Ireland offering programmes of therapy and support group meetings. It would be helpful to cover these as well as new current approaches and information, on your health page in future. - Yours, etc.,

Donna O'Connor-Hunnisett, M.A.Psych, Member of The European Council on Eating Disorders, Grosvenor Road, Dublin 6.