Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Health

Groups work to ease the path to recovery for those with eating disorders

Robin Murray was in her 40s when the eating disorder she battled as a teenager and young adult came roaring back.

Suddenly, she returned to the destructive behaviors of her youth — restricting, bingeing on and purging food, plus overexercising to compensate for any calories she managed to keep down.

During her earlier battle, which lasted 15 years, Murray went through several different treatment facilities and once came close to death because she had become so thin.

"I got a lot of positive attention for losing weight, even though I wasn't overweight," she recalled. "Ironically, my major (in college) was psychology. I understood my disorder, I just couldn't change it."

Then someone suggested she try a Tampa counseling center that helped people establish a healthy relationship with food and slowly transition back into everyday life. While there, she was introduced to a 12-step program similar to the one used by Alcoholics Anonymous and other groups that help people with addictions.

"That's when it clicked," she said. "I was able to apply those principles to food and realized it was something I couldn't control. I went to meetings for years."

Murray was 30 before she finally found a path to recovery.

But then her support group lost its meeting place, so the members lost touch. Serious medical problems struck her family — she was now in her 40s and the mother of two young children — and the stress and anxiety became too much. Murray coped by returning to the familiar cycle of restricting, bingeing on and purging food.

A couple of years before the relapse, Murray, now 48 and living with her family in Safety Harbor, had become active in groups dedicated to increasing awareness of eating disorders. She befriended Cherie Monarch, a volunteer and board member with the Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness. Murray called on Monarch to help her find a treatment facility as close to home as possible.

Monarch, a Tarpon Springs mother and business owner, has been heavily involved in advocacy for those affected by eating disorders. One of her daughters was diagnosed with anorexia at age 15; it continued into her college years. Getting her into life-saving treatment and eventually into recovery was a long, difficult process. She turned the experience into a crusade to help others.

To help Murray, Monarch consulted the Florida Eating Disorders Treatment Referral Guide, published by the alliance since 2010. Alliance founder and CEO Johanna Kandel wanted to create a resource that did all the legwork and research for people seeking treatment.

"For our first guide, it took over two years to whittle down a list of 1,000 practitioners in Florida to 160 who specialized in treating eating disorders," said Kandel, who suffered from an eating disorder for 10 years, starting at age 11.

"Now," she said, "we have 290 practitioners in the guide, and last year sent out 15,000 copies to hospitals, mental health agencies, doctor's offices, legislative offices, schools and colleges." The guide accepts no paid advertising, and clinicians do not pay a fee to be included.

The alliance plans to launch a digital version of the guide on a new interactive website (findedhelp.com) this month. It will contain all the Florida practitioners as well as a comprehensive list of treatment centers nationwide. It also will include critical information such as the types of health insurance each practitioner accepts and if they offer a sliding fee scale for those without insurance.

"On the new website we'll also have a video explaining how to advocate for yourself to get insurance coverage for treatment," said Kandel. That's because most insurance companies don't cover in-patient treatment for eating disorders or don't cover it for more than a few days or weeks. Effective treatment often takes several months.

According to the alliance, about 25 million Americans suffer from eating disorders. The most common are anorexia (starving), bulimia (eating large amounts of food and purging, vomiting or using laxatives) and binge eating disorder (eating large amounts of food without purging).

While women make up the majority of those with eating disorders, about 25 percent are men. Eating disorders tend to run in families and in many cases are thought to be genetic.

Once Robin Murray completed treatment and returned home, she again turned to the Florida treatment guide to find doctors, counselors and nutritionists in the Tampa Bay area who could support her through recovery.

On March 5, the alliance is hosting an awareness and fundraising walk in Tampa to help cover the costs of the 2017 treatment guide, due out in April. Any additional funds raised will be used to start support groups in the Tampa Bay area for people with eating disorders, their families and friends.

The groups will be fashioned after those held at the alliance's headquarters in West Palm Beach, which are free and led by trained clinicians who receive a stipend for their time. There are groups for adolescents, teens, young adults, men and women, as well as for family members and friends.

Murray, Monarch and Kandel say having such support is key to a lasting recovery.

"I now know that in times of transition and trauma, you need extra support," said Murray, who now has a network of friends she checks in with regularly to stay healthy.

"Recovery doesn't mean you're cured; there is no cure. But recovery is absolutely possible."

Contact Irene Maher at [email protected]

   
Comments
Watchdog slams safeguards for foster kids on psych drugs

Watchdog slams safeguards for foster kids on psych drugs

WASHINGTON — Thousands of foster children may be getting powerful psychiatric drugs prescribed to them without basic safeguards, says a federal watchdog agency that found a failure to care for youngsters whose lives have already been disrupted...
Published: 09/17/18
Doctors dismissed her, but she turned out to be right after years of needless suffering

Doctors dismissed her, but she turned out to be right after years of needless suffering

The prominent New York City gynecologist didn’t bother to conceal his disdain."Stop practicing Google medicine," Lina Kharnak remembers the doctor chiding her when she asked about a possible cause of her worsening leg and back pain. The disease about...
Published: 09/16/18
Updated: 09/17/18
Tampa General Hospital’s East Pavilion advised not to use running water after water main break

Tampa General Hospital’s East Pavilion advised not to use running water after water main break

Since Saturday morning, patients and staff in Tampa General Hospital’s East Pavilion and Rehabilitation Center have been advised against using running water.As of Sunday afternoon, it was not known when the recommended ban would be lifted.According t...
Published: 09/16/18
Anger management: Learn healthy ways to handle it, and unlearn bad behavior

Anger management: Learn healthy ways to handle it, and unlearn bad behavior

What makes you mad? Dropping your new phone in the toilet — after deciding not to take the extra coverage that would have replaced it? Being cut off in traffic? Having a parking place "stolen" from you? Doing dishes after shopping for and cooki...
Published: 09/14/18
Red Tide outbreak can be particularly bad for people with asthma or allergies

Red Tide outbreak can be particularly bad for people with asthma or allergies

The toxic algae bloom known as Red Tide has left a trail of dead fish in its wake up the western coast of Florida. The bloom that had been wreaking havoc on our southern neighbors has now made its way to the Tampa Bay area. High concentrations of the...
Published: 09/14/18
In Florida and everywhere, a big shift is underway. It’s changing the way we go to the doctor.

In Florida and everywhere, a big shift is underway. It’s changing the way we go to the doctor.

The health care business in Florida and across the nation is the midst of monumental change as insurers, hospital chains and even retailers begin to venture outside their traditional roles. Hospitals are getting into the insurance end of the busines...
Published: 09/17/18
Calling teen vaping ‘epidemic,’ officials weigh flavor ban

Calling teen vaping ‘epidemic,’ officials weigh flavor ban

WASHINGTON — U.S. health officials are sounding the alarm about teenage use of e-cigarettes, calling the problem an "epidemic" and ordering manufacturers to reverse the trend or risk having their flavored vaping products pulled from the market. The w...
Published: 09/12/18
Doctors explore lifting barriers to living organ donation

Doctors explore lifting barriers to living organ donation

WASHINGTON — Surgeons turned down Terra Goudge for the liver transplant that was her only shot at surviving a rare cancer. Her tumor was too advanced, they said — even though Goudge had a friend ready to donate, no matter those odds. "I have a living...
Published: 09/10/18
Florida has more people using Obamacare than any other state. Will that continue in 2019?

Florida has more people using Obamacare than any other state. Will that continue in 2019?

With just about two months to go before the start of open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act, local advocates say they are worried they won’t have nearly enough resources to get the word out to consumers about some confusing changes this year. Mo...
Published: 09/06/18
Updated: 09/07/18
Airport security trays carry more cold germs than toilets, study finds

Airport security trays carry more cold germs than toilets, study finds

LONDON — Airport security is there to protect you, but it may also give you the sniffles — or worse.To all the places and surfaces we’ve been warned are teeming with germs or bacteria — your pets, the subway seat, airplane cabins, the ATM — add the a...
Published: 09/05/18