Taking on Disordered Eating
Expert Corner: Perfectionism and Eating Disorders
by: John Levitt, Ph.D.
Perfectionism is often associated with a person setting excessively high standards for themselves, usually accompanied by overly critical self-evaluations, and a heightened concern about others’ evaluations of them and their performance(s). In many cases, the desire to be perfect has also been associated with depression, some medical problems, suicide, and eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating. Indeed, eating disorders are often associated with the pursuit of an ideal, unrealistic, body size or image promulgated by society. No matter how hard the person tries, they cannot achieve or sustain that “ideal” body image and still be content with themselves and their life. Certainly, in these cases, many young women pursue some idealized weight goal that may be totally unrealistic for their age, body or stage of development. Some of these individuals respond to their struggle to reach their “perfect” eating disorder goals disciplining themselves with self-harm, use of drug/alcohol, or punish themselves psychologically with the result that they feel helpless and hopeless (i.e. depressed).
Perfectionism is a natural fit for those developing or for those who already have eating disorders. Sometimes, perfectionism exists already, but since the young person cannot be perfect, they turn to their body. Occasionally, the young person feels the struggles of life and tries to feel better by using their body as a tool for achieving perfectionism and to feel better.
The dilemma here is:
- How can a person learn to accept themselves for who they are, for their natural talents and assets, including their flaws?
- How can they find contentment with what they can accomplish – not for what they haven’t accomplished?
- How can they find comfort in their friends or those interests that they have – not so much for how they look, not so much for how much they weigh?
The ultimate question the perfectionist needs to answer is:
- Has trying to be perfect ever resulted in you feeling good about yourself in an enduring meaningful way?”
Unfortunately, for most of these people the answer is as elusive as perfection.
For more information on services or Dr. Levitt, contact 630.305.5500.
Success Story: Life After Eating Disorder is Good for Aurora Mom
Tiffany Skrezyna, 26, enjoys making cookies with her 4-year-old son Jackson. A few years ago such a food-centered activity would have cooked up more anxiety than pleasure for the Aurora mom who battled anorexia for about eight years.
Anorexia nervosa is marked by an intense fear of gaining weight, excessive dieting, a distorted body image and drastic weight loss. This potentially deadly eating disorder is estimated to affect 1 percent of adolescent females in the United States, but it can strike adults and adolescents of any age. About 10 percent of anorexia sufferers are males.
Joan Mrozek, Manager of Eating Disorders Services at Linden Oaks at Edward, says self-acceptance is the key in prevention and treatment of eating disorders. "If you don't love yourself, you'll be less likely to make the best decisions about your well-being and more likely to look for a quick fix" says Mrozek.
A victim of bullying at school, Skrezyna struggled with self-acceptance as a child. She began to seriously restrict her food intake when she was 13. "I just wasn't enjoying my life,” she says. “All I could focus on was controlling what I weighed."
At 16 she attended a support group sponsored by ANAD, the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. There she learned about the Linden Oaks Eating Disorders Program for adults and adolescents 16 and older.
Patients in the program are referred to a level of care based on the severity of their disorder and the presence of any other physical or mental conditions. Services include inpatient care; a partial hospitalization program where the patient goes home nights; and an intensive outpatient program, involving a few hours of treatment each weekday. Completing the continuum of care is a transitional residential program, Arabella House.
In addition to medical treatment, patients receive individual and group therapy, and nutrition and exercise education. For some, outpatient care is appropriate throughout treatment. Others begin treatment as an inpatient, then step down to partial hospitalization or intensive outpatient care.
Skrezyna completed the inpatient to outpatient cycle several times. "The problem [with sticking with recovery] was I was going for treatment only because someone else wanted me to. I always kept going back to the eating disorder as a back-up plan."
The turning point came in 2009, when Skrezyna was eight weeks pregnant with her first child. "At my second OB-GYN appointment I learned I had lost weight,” she recalls. “That was of more interest to me than hearing my baby's heartbeat. I realized I no longer wanted to feel detached and focused only on weight – not for my sake or my baby's."
She returned again as an inpatient at Linden Oaks at Edward. “I had learned a lot of good coping strategies in treatment, but I had always resisted dealing with my real issues. Now I was ready."
Today, Skrezyna is the mother of two children under 5 and has a 9-year old step-daughter.
She says, "Things are so different now. I can enjoy time with my family. I always believed that I would learn to change my behavior, but I'd struggle for the rest of my life with the thoughts [about weight]. I no longer have those thoughts. I learned that full recovery from an eating disorder is possible."
For more information on Linden Oaks eating disorder services, contact 630.305.5500 or CLICK HERE. To schedule a free behavioral health assessment, call 630-305-5027.
Employee in the News: Gina Sharp, President of Linden Oaks at Edward
Gina Sharp, President of Linden Oaks at Edward, was recognized for her professional achievements by the American College for Healthcare Executives (ACHE) on February 11, 2014 at the Hyatt Regency Chicago. She received the 2013 ACHE Early Career Healthcare Executive Award. This award recognizes executives under the age of 40 who have had a significant impact in healthcare.
Gina was awarded for her work over the last ten years in behavioral health. In her tenure at Linden Oaks, she has transitioned from a financial analyst to president of the organization. She has implemented a high quality and patient centered care approach and recruited talented physicians and staff members to join Linden Oaks. These improvements have resulted in better treatment options and programs available and the integration of behavioral healthcare with medical care.
Among her many achievements is improved the financial operations for Linden Oaks. The financial savings have allowed money to be re-invested into programming and facility improvements. She also redesigned the operations of the Resource and Referral Department which resulted in assessments increasing from 6,300 to 10,000 annually. And she was instrumental in the growth of the “help hotline” to 120,000 clinical calls annually.
Gina is also known in the community as an extensive advocate for awareness of behavioral health issues. And educational and prevention initiatives such as Mental Health First Aid and Signs of Suicide have also seen growth under her leadership. Gina is also the president of the board of trustees for a local non-profit organization that empowers children, Kids Matter.
Linden Oaks at Edward joins the ACHE in congratulating Gina on her 2013 ACHE Early Career Healthcare Executive Award and thank her for her dedication to furthering behavioral healthcare and treatment with compassion, dignity, and excellence.
For more information on Linden Oaks at Edward services or Gina Sharp, contact 630.305.5500.
Arabella House is an 8-bed therapeutic group home for the treatment of women aged 16-years and older with an eating disorder diagnosis. It provides 24-hour care for the residents as they work to recover by learning and/or improving the skills needed to transition back to their communities.
LIFE SKILLS COMPONENTS
- Meal planning/prep/grocery shopping
- Social/interpersonal skills
- House cleaning/gardening
- Returning to school/work
- Weekly individual sessions
- Weekly family sessions
- Equine Therapy
- Expressive and Occupational Therapy
- Emotional Regulation
- Body Image
- Process Group
- DBT Skills Group
- Leisure/relaxation education
- Fitness training and education
- Yoga and NIA body movement classes
- Senior citizens’ home volunteering
- Food pantry volunteering
- Naperville Humane Society volunteering
For more information on Arabella House services, contact 630.305.5500.
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