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Experts See Hope on the Horizon for People with Eating Disorders

hope for eating disordersJust four months after April Dunlap began dieting, her parents and doctor determined that she was losing too much weight. It was determined that she was suffering from anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder characterized by a refusal to maintain a healthy body weight. She was admitted to an eating disorders program and, within 10 days she was discharged after reaching a healthy weight.

April was able to nip her eating disorder in the bud. She was in and out of treatment before she could do any lasting harm to herself. Ms. Dunlap’s story is becoming refreshingly more common.

When singer Karen Carpenter died of anorexia-induced heart failure, the American public knew very little about eating disorders. Nearly 30 years later, experts see hopeful signs that more individuals who are struggling with eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia are getting the help that they so desperately need.

More often, experts are seeing patients seeking treatment in an eating disorder program long before their disease spirals into out of control, leading to heart or kidney failure, hospitalization and numerous relapses. More patients are seeking treatment early in the course of their disease. As such, they are recovering faster.

A recent government analysis found that hospitalizations for people whose primary diagnosis is an eating disorder have plummeted 23% between 2007-2008 and 2008-2009. This amounted to the first registered decline since 1999, when the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality began tracking such hospitalizations.

Statistics like this offer experts hope. “Any little movement is significant, and this is a pretty big one,” said William Encinosa, a senior economist who worked on the report.

Another source of optimism stems from surveys conducted by The National Eating Disorders Association, which reported that Americans are more familiar with anorexia nervosa and bulimia than they were 10 years ago. The fact that more people are aware of eating disorders, and their prevalence, has helped to remove the stigma attached to seeking eating disorders treatment.

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