Would you recognize if your friend or family member had an eating disorder?

I first showed signs of anorexia when I was a sophomore in high school. I began limiting food. I was a synchronized swimmer and wanted to lose weight to look better in a bathing suit. Rather than eating lunch, I’d study or talk to friends. I stayed late at school and skipped dinner. I exercised compulsively, sometimes working out all night. I didn’t want to sleep, because I wouldn’t be burning any calories. Keeping up the self-starvation became more difficult when I started going to Sweet 16 parties. I’d eat a salad or soup, a binge for me at that time. To compensate, I began purging and taking pills—laxatives, diet pills, water pills—25 or 30 a day. I lost weight. I always felt cold and often lightheaded. I fainted. I was very moody and temperamental. Toward the end, I developed fine baby hair on my tummy (a symptom of anorexia). The enamel on my teeth eroded from the stomach acid coming back up when I vomited. I needed many fillings.

Read more about Joan’s Story

Eating Disorders are serious, life-threatening illnesses – not choices – and it’s important to recognize the pressures, attitudes and behaviors that shape the disorder. Would you recognize if your friend or family member had an eating disorder? Parents, siblings and close friends play a significant role in guiding and supporting someone with an eating disorder. In many cases, individuals with eating disorders cannot recognize a need for help in themselves, and it takes a strong, caring individual to reach out. Most importantly, you need to know that there is hope. For those seeking recovery for a loved one, eating disorder treatment is available.

Some of the warning signs that may indicate an Eating disorder include:

  • Excessive weight loss – losing 15% or more of ideal body weight
  • Obsession with food calories and fat content
  • Dieting even when thin
  • Intense fear of gaining weight, even when underweight
  • Distorted self-image of excess weight even though not overweight.
  • preoccupation with size, body weight or shape
  • preoccupied with food, calories, nutrition, or cooking
  • Being secretive about food
  • Social isolation / avoid situations where food is served
  • Uses the bathroom frequently after meals.
  • Experiences frequent fluctuations in weight.
  • Loss of menstrual periods (secondary amenorrhea ) or delay in onset of period (menarche)
  • Excessive or increase in exercise
  • Feeling cold, especially in the hands and feet
  • Hair loss and/or growth of fine hair on the body
  • Over-use of laxatives or other weight loss products
  • Fainting or severe lightheadedness
  • Depression and/or anxiety
  • Heart palpitations

February 26 – March 3, 2012 is National Eating Disorders Awareness week. Access an Eating Disorders Screening Tool, or get information about Eating Disorder Treatment.

If you or someone you know may be struggling with an eating disorder, please contact Aurora Behavioral Health Services at 877-666-7223 or visit our web site at Aurora Behavioral Health Services.


Has the media affected your own body image?

Does the media’s portrayal of body image affect how the average person feels about themselves? Sandra Blaies, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and  Eating Disorder Program Supervisor at Aurora Psychiatric Hospital shares her thoughts on the relationship between the media and body image.

Media images help form cultural definitions of beauty and attractiveness. Media messages screaming “thin is in” may not directly cause eating disorders, but they cause us to place a value on the size and shape of our bodies. Media helps our culture define what is beautiful, and therefore the media’s power over our development of self-esteem and body image can be incredibly strong.

Media’s representation of body image is often in conflict with reality.  For example, the average American woman is 5’4” tall and weighs 140 pounds. The average American model is 5’11” tall and weighs 117 pounds. Most fashion models are thinner than 98% of American women.

This representation of “beauty” as defined by media drives many individuals to diet. Consider these statistics from the National Eating Disorder Association.

  • Over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives.
  • 25% of American men and 45% of American women are on a diet on any given day
  • 42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner
  • 81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat
  • 46% of 9-11 year-olds are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets, and 82% of their families are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets
  • 91% of women recently surveyed on a college campus had attempted to control their weight through dieting, 22% dieted “often” or “always”.
  • Americans spend over $40 billion on dieting and diet-related products each year.
  • 35% of “normal dieters” progress to pathological dieting. Of those, 20-25% progress to partial or full syndrome eating disorders.

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week kicks off on Sunday, February 26. Let’s all remember that size and shape is not as important as health, and that media images of beauty are often not realistic. We need more diverse and real images of people with more positive messages about health and self-esteem. We need to reduce the pressures many people feel to make their bodies conform to one ideal, and in the process, reduce feelings of body dissatisfaction and ultimately decrease the potential for eating disorders.

If you or someone you know may be struggling with an eating disorder, please contact Aurora Behavioral Health Services at 877-666-7223 or visit our web site at Aurora Behavioral Health Services


What if you don’t need hospitalization? PHP: an alternative to inpatient mental health care.

For people who do not need to be hospitalized for behavioral health issues like anxiety, depression, bipolar or post traumatic stress disorder, but who have serious symptoms that are impacting their ability to cope with a daily routine, there is Partial Hospitalization. Partial Hospitalization (PHP.)

PHP is a great alternative to inpatient care, with a more flexible schedule, and is also more cost-effective. Yet many people are still unaware that PHP exists. It’s a fairly new concept in mental health care, having become available within the last 10-15 years.

Partial Hospitalization provides clinically equivalent mental healthcare at a much lower cost than inpatient treatment. According to the Association for Ambulatory Behavioral Healthcare, direct cost savings over inpatient benefits are usually 40 to 60 percent — and more than 60 percent in some instances. There are additional benefits because an employee involved in PHP treatment may be able to work on at least a limited basis, thus maintaining productivity.

Partial hospitalization dates back to the 1960s, when a small group of clinicians believed that individuals with acute mental illness would have a better chance of recovery and healthy functioning if they were allowed to pursue their treatment in the same communities where they worked, went to school, or maintained their family relationships.

“Our program provides the resources available to an inpatient without being completely isolated from your life” explains Marlyene Pfeiffer, LCSW, CSAC, and program psychotherapist at Aurora Psychiatric Hospital. “It’s an alternative to inpatient care, or a nice transition toward home for those ready to be discharged from the hospital.”

Partial Hospital programs help individuals develop and strengthen coping and healthy living skills – from healthy eating and regular exercise, to better sleep habits. Patients come in during the day and go home to their families in the evening. This allows them to practice the new skills they’ve learned, while also promoting their newfound confidence and independence.

Click here for more information about the Partial Hospitalization Program at Aurora Psychiatric Hospital call 414-773-4312.

               Join us at our Open House on Thursday, February 16!

The Behavioral Health program at Aurora St Luke’s South Shore Hospital is also implementing a new partial hospitalization program starting February 20. Join us for an Open House to tour the facility and meet our staff.

Aurora Behavioral Health Services offers complete mental health treatment options, provided by highly trained professionals in a caring, confidential manner to meet individual and family needs.  If you or someone you know needs help, contact us — online or by phone at 1-877-666-7223 — as soon as possible.

What happens when grown children return home to live?

Kenneth Christian, MS, LCSW is an adult psychotherapist at the Aurora Behavioral Health Center.

Unlike any time we have seen in recent history, grown children are returning home to live with their parents.

A new study by the U.S. Census Bureau shows that males living at home increased to 19% from 14%, and the number of young women returning to the nest rose to 10% from 8% in the last six years. Unemployment at 9%, a weak labor market, fear about the economy, or just a desire to save money are all contributing to this trend.

This can create tension among parents and children alike who are accustomed to living independently. Ken Christian, LCSW, therapist for Aurora Behavioral Health Services offers his advice:

From a parent’s perspective, there are a number of things to keep in mind to help with the transition.

  • Flexibility:  Give them space, they will have different ideas about curfews, habits, etc.  Give them options, within reason.  You no longer should be expected to pick up after them (if that was ever the case).
  • Patience:  Issues will come up.  Stop and think before jumping in with knee-jerk reaction.  They are used to having more independence and won’t want to give that up. . . setting the state quickly for conflict.
  • Understanding:  Their priorities have changed.  Don’t assume it will be the same as when they were in high school.
  • Limits:  Basics, common courtesy, kids may have acquired some values (while gone) different from what you taught them, however when under your roof your values still prevail.  If they don’t have a curfew that doesn’t mean they can stumble in noisily at 3:00 a.m.
  • Your choices:  There has been much discussion over whether or not to charge a grown child rent.  This depends on circumstances, both theirs and yours.  If the purpose of living at home is saving money for a legitimate purpose, such as buying a house or saving for school, rent might be ignored.  But if there is no specific goal or plan and the grown child is working, then rent lets them know they are adults and expected to pay their own way.  By the way, paying rent does not give them the right to overlook your values or your rules.
  • Opportunity:  For you to continue to set examples which were on some levels overlooked when the kids were younger.
  • Give options and examples:  as opposed to using language like “You need to.”  Give them the benefit of your years of experience without dictating to them.  What seemed natural in grade school will no longer work; only irritate and stir up friction.
  • Speak positively about goals/potential goals.  If they’ve moved back in as an adult there’s a good chance their plans aren’t working out as they may have planned.  This creates tension and uncertainty in their life and the last they thing they need is any kind of ?message that they may in some way have failed or are not measuring up.  It’s called giving unconditional love, not to be confused with “You are an adult so I don’t have any right to tell you what to do.”

Be firm in a caring way—try to refrain from giving ultimatums!

Aurora Behavioral Health Services offers complete mental health treatment options, provided by highly trained professionals in a caring, confidential manner to meet individual and family needs.  If you or someone you know needs help, contact us — online or by phone at 1-877-666-7223 — as soon as possible.