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Eating Disorder Maintenance Factors

Abstract: Why do persons with eating disorders not get well by themselves? What makes an eating disorder persist? How long does a person suffer from an eating disorder? Which factors prevent a person with an eating disorder from recovering?

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Eating Disorder Maintenance Factors

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Question(s): 
Written by: Fabio Piccini, doctor and Jungian psychotherapist, in charge of the "Centre for Eating Disorders Therapy" at "Malatesta Novello" nursing home in Cesena. Works privately in Rimini and Chiavari. E-mail:
First version: 22 Jul 2008.
Latest revision: 10 Aug 2008.

Why do persons with eating disorders not get well by themselves? What makes an eating disorder persist? How long does a person suffer from an eating disorder? Which factors prevent a person with an eating disorder from recovering?

Answer:

Research has shown that the average eating disorder lasts 4-5 years. For this reason they are called long-term pathologies and are prone to becoming chronic.

It is not clear why some people develop an eating disorder with a more benign evolution that improves over time, and why others have a chronic disorder that is prone to worsen with time and can culminate in death.

Assumed factors that favour disorder maintenance and chronic deterioration are as follows:

  • patient personality structure
  • interpersonal relationship difficulties
  • strict diet
  • weight control techniques
  • binges
  • excessive exercise
  • inappropriate therapeutic interventions

After examining these factors it is evident that a therapy that aims at the well-being of an eating disorder patient must involve treatment of all of the above.

The ideal therapy, therefore, is one that will progressively eliminate eating disorder maintenance factors from nutritional, cognitive-behavioural and interpersonal areas.

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