Health Watch -- Healing Eating Disorders

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It takes a team of professionals and family involvement to bring girls back from the brink of starvation.

Doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas and Children’s Medical Center Dallas take a comprehensive approach to eating disorders, with a clinic that provides multiple levels of care, depending on each patient’s needs. This program has an exceptionally high long-term success rate.

The most seriously ill patients, the ones who have nearly starved themselves to death, may be hospitalized until their weight returns to a normal range. A team of medical professionals addresses the numerous potential complications, which can include nutritional imbalances and deficiencies, heart problems, bone mass reduction, low blood pressure and other problems.

But healing the body is only part of the equation. Doctors must teach these young women that they don’t have to be afraid to eat. Dr. Stephanie Setliff, the UT Southwestern psychiatrist who runs the inpatient eating disorders unit, says that’s the biggest challenge of treating eating disorders. The program uses family therapy, individual counseling, art therapy, medication and chaplain support, among other methods, to help patients learn to live normal, healthy lives.