Research shows that if someone doesn’t get effective treatment within the first three years, medical outcomes in anorexia are very poor.
Eating disorders in young people are on the up. A British Medical Journal report says the frequency of eating disorders rose from 32 per 1,000 to 37 in the 10 years from 2000 in people in the age group 10-49. Eating disorders are now fairly common among adolescent girls.
A recent Dutch study found they’re six times more common than in men. Despite this prevalence, anorexia , bulimia and binge-eating disorder are often dangerously misunderstood. Even people with classic symptoms often don’t get any kind of treatment – that’s around 56% in the Netherlands and 28% in the US.
Better results can only be achieved if treatment starts early and that means as soon as possible after diagnosis. Guidelines recommend that all under-18s start treatment within four weeks and if the person doesn’t get effective treatment within the first three years, medical outcomes in anorexia are very poor.
Equally important is that the doctor builds a caring, supportive relationship with the family, not just with the patient. Researchers believe helping the family to see eating problems as separate from the young person is a beneficial strategy. Then the parents and child can team up against the disorder and fight it together.
Prompt referral of patients with suspected eating disorders to a specialist is important as early treatment substantially improves the outlook. This can’t be overemphasised as eating disorders have a relatively high mortality rate as well as impacting physical and mental ill health.