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Education: the First Line of Defense against Eating Disorders

Providing accurate information and improving knowledge of the illness is the most effective preliminary strategy against eating disorders, according to a study in Early Intervention in Psychiatry published by Wiley Blackwell.

Researchers conducted an Eating Disorder Mental Health Literacy (EDMHL) intervention by providing women with eating disorders with treatment information, reputable self-help books and information on where to get further information. The findings were published in the research paper, “Effects of Providing Information on Eating Disorders”.

The EDMHL intervention proved to be successful as participants showed less pessimism about the difficulty of treatment, improved knowledge, increased help-seeking and a significantly improved quality of life.

Lead author Professor Phillipa Hay, Foundation Chair of the Mental Health School of Medicine at the University of Western Sydney said, “The infrequent uptake of treatment by people suffering from eating disorders is associated with poor Mental Health Literacy (MHL), defined as the knowledge and belief about mental disorders. This community-based intervention is aimed at remedying existing misconceptions about eating disorders and its treatments.”

Eating disorders are extremely common, with about one in 20 Australians having issues with disordered eating or extreme body image concerns at any one time.

“Despite the fact that having an eating disorder causes immense distress and prevents sufferers from leading full lives, most people, up to 90%, with the disorders are not receiving help or treatment.” said Professor Hay.

She added, “Our simple and inexpensive intervention prompted over a third of the participants to seek treatment – this showing that when people are armed with the knowledge and the right information, they will be more willing to seek out treatment”

Alina Boey | alfa
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