Talking to Your Healthcare Provider About Eating Disorders
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Talking to Your Healthcare Provider About Eating Disorders

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You have a unique medical history. Therefore, it is essential to talk with your doctor or healthcare provider about your personal risk factors and/or experience with eating disorders. By talking openly and regularly with your healthcare provider, you can take an active role in your care.

General Tips for Gathering Information

Here are some tips that will make it easier for you to talk to your healthcare provider:

  • Bring someone else with you. It helps to have another person hear what is said and think of questions to ask.
  • Write out your questions ahead of time, so you don't forget them.
  • Write down the answers you get and make sure you understand what you are hearing. Ask for clarification, if necessary.
  • Don't be afraid to ask your questions or ask where you can find more information about what you are discussing. You have a right to know.

Specific Questions to Ask Your Healthcare Provider

About Eating Disorders

  • How serious are my symptoms?
  • How much weight do you think I should gain?
  • Have I damaged my body in any way?
  • Can I have a physical exam? Should I have any tests to assess potential physical problems related to my eating disorder?
  • Where can I get more information about eating disorders?

About Your Risk of Developing Complications

  • What health complications do I need to be concerned about?
  • Can I reverse any damage that has been done as the result of my eating disorder?
  • Will my periods return?

About Treatment Options

  • What treatments are available for eating disorders?
  • Are there medicines that can help me? If so:
    • How long will they take to work?
    • What benefits can I expect?
    • What side effects should I be aware of?
  • Have you helped other people with eating disorders? If not, can you refer me to another healthcare provider who has?
  • Can you refer me to a counselor who treats people with eating disorders?
  • Where can I find a support group or an eating disorders treatment program?
  • Can you refer me to a dietitian who specializes in eating disorders and who can help me develop a healthful eating plan?

If you decide to try counseling, interview counselors who treat people with eating disorders. Be sure that you feel comfortable with the counselor. Ask the following questions:

  • How much training and experience do you have treating eating disorders?
  • What is your basic approach to treatment?
  • How long do I need treatment?
  • How long and how frequent are the treatment sessions?
  • What type of health insurance is accepted?
  • Do you have special fee schedules and sliding scale fees to accommodate various financial circumstances?

About Lifestyle Changes

  • What lifestyle changes can help me manage my eating disorder? What can I do about:
    • Diet and eating habits
    • Exercise
    • Stress
  • How else can I change my patterns so that I don't go back to disordered eating behaviors?

About Outlook

  • What are my chances of recovery?
  • What can I do to prevent a relapse?
  • Will I be able to become pregnant?

References:

Cachelin FM, Rebeck R, Veisel C, Striegel-Moore RH. Barriers to treatment for eating disorders among ethnically diverse women. Int J Eat Disord . 2001;30(3):269-278.

National Eating Disorders Association website. Available at: http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/p.asp?WebPage_ID=337 .

Partnership for Clear Health Communication. Ask Me 3 website. Available at: http://www.askme3.org . Accessed April 10, 2007.

Questions to ask when considering treatment options. National Eating Disorders Association website. Available at: http://www.edap.org/p.asp?WebPage_ID=286&Profile_ID=41151 . Accessed April 12, 2007.

Seeking treatment. National Eating Disorders Association website. Accessed April 10, 2007. Available at: http://www.edap.org/p.asp?WebPage_ID=295 .

Yager J, Devlin MJ, Halmi KA, et al. Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients with Eating Disorders. 3rd ed. American Psychiatric Association; 2006. Available at: http://www.psych.org/psych_pract/treatg/pg/EatingDisorders3ePG_04-28-06.pdf . Accessed April 8, 2007.



Last reviewed April 2007 by Janet Greenhut, MD, MPH

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


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