Having a sister who has experienced an eating disorder, this topic hits very close to home for me. She overcame her difficulty with it and actually went on to mentor a group of girls when she was writing her thesis at the university. She has spoken to me in passing about the various challenges girls are facing and it is interesting to note the correlation between what she was saying and what the textbook is saying. My sister told me that there has been an increase in eating disorders among women over the last couple decades, and this is because of the way women are shown in pop culture. But I was interested to read that it isn’t just the images that women see on TV, which they sometimes want to emulate, but that genetics could also play a role. The text says that it is only in the last 10 years or so that detailed research of genetic factors has occurred. These studies suggest that anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa is hereditary, (331). I should emphasize that this information isn’t proven, as it is in its theoretical stage. The text goes on to say there are also biological factors, psychological factors, developmental factors and social factors, which I believe is the most common.
I was also troubled to learn that among the devastating effects of child abuse is eating disorders. While I don’t have personal experience with child abuse, it is something that anyone who isn’t a sociopath is deeply sympathetic towards, and I believe a lot of the people I will be helping as a counsellor will have experience suffering from child abuse, as abused children are often vulnerable adults. The textbook makes mention to studies in which some people who have eating disorders experienced sexual abuse as a child. Reports cited in the text indicate that many people with eating disorders suffered from childhood sexual abuse, (339). In fact, a Toronto study found that 25 per cent of those with an eating disorder suffered childhood sexual abuse.
Treating an eating disorder, like nearly any other disorder, is extremely difficult. The most difficult part of getting someone into treatment is having the person admit that they have an eating disorder. Because of this, about 90 per cent of people with eating disorders are not on treatment, (341). My sister was the same way. I remember my parents trying to convince her to eat, but she would always say she’s not hungry. When they would approach her, telling her that she has a problem, she would deny that she does. But I remember that she was very skinny. Going through this with her and finally seeing her come around late in her teenage years, that experience will assist me greatly in helping those who have eating disorders to admit that they have the problem. Once they admit this, it is much easier to get them into treatment.
The textbook makes reference to three categories of treatments, including biological treatments, psychological treatment of anorexia nervosa and psychological treatment of bulimia nervosa. The biological treatments include antidepressants because eating disorders are often associated with depression. Psychological treatment of anorexia nervosa includes hospital treatment to regain mental and physical capacity. These patients are rewarded for eating by being allowed company and to watch TV, for example, (342). The psychological treatment for bulimia nervosa asks the patient to question society’s “standards for physical attractiveness,” (343). The underlying beliefs that cause a person to starve themselves need to be addressed.
The Jason Lavender article touched on the concept of men who suffer from eating disorders. Body dissatisfaction was named as a primary reason for men to have eating disorders. Men also appear to be more likely to commit self-harm: “Prior studies have found this subscale to be associated with other maladaptive behaviours among men, such as self-harm,” (Lavender, 355).
I believe that, though I am a man, I could help counsel both genders in this category because of the experience I have with the difficulties that my sister went through when she was a teenager and the information that she shared with me. Also, as it was noted in the Lavender article, men also suffer from eating disorders, and this is a category where men who suffer from this could be helped by a combination of my experience as a man, and with the challenges my sister faced as a teenager.
Chapter 12: Substance-related Disorders
I think almost everyone has experienced a person who changes when they are drinking. While I was too young to remember, my father was an alcoholic. He sobered up when I was about four years old, which was good timing, because I don’t remember his problem and the devastation that it caused. The father that I know is a kind and caring man, but he apparently changed quite drastically after he had too much to drink. I also remember my oldest brother getting into a car accident when he was drunk. While reading through these texts, I can see that my personal experiences with many of these factors will help me while assisting people when I become a councillor. Maybe there can be good use out of these devastating situations.
Chapter 12 takes a close look at the results of alcohol abuse. It really hits home when seeing that the World Health Organization deemed alcohol abuse as the fourth-leading cause of worldwide disability. In fact, alcohol accounts for more years lost due to disability or death than either illicit drugs or tobacco, (403). But there are both short- and long-term effects of alcohol, as the text explains. While the short-term effects can be stimulating, as we have seen, the long-term effects, such as death or disability are life-changing.The challenging part is that there is such a widespread acceptance of alcohol in most societies, and this makes people very vulnerable to drinking in excess.
It was interesting to note the theory in the Matthias Berking article that the average length for treatment of alcohol abuse was only 98 days. That comes as a surprise but it puts the ability to deal with the situation into perspective. The treatment largely focuses on behavioral changes that are intended to create sustained abstinence, (Berkley, 309). This is once the person is willing to go into treatment. The challenge would be getting them to admit that they have a problem, which is where I would come in as a councillor.
But alcohol is just one of the many substance-related disorders that affect society and the people who could one day be sitting on a chair as I counsel them. The text points out that people are also affected by inhalant use disorders. This is when people sniff things like gasoline, correction fluid, spray paint, cosmetics, household aerosol sprays, nitrous oxide and glue. Many others can’t stop smoking cigarettes and other substances that contain nicotine, which is a major killer. The text also describes the use of many other drugs that could have an effect on people. While some of these drugs are proven to cause brain damage and other debilitating results, others, such as marijuana, are still in their study phase.
There is an assortment of treatments for the use of illicit drugs. These include biological and psychological treatments. The biological treatments include substitutes. These are similar to the drugs and can satisfy the body’s craving for the drug, without the negative side effects. The drug is swallowed by the patient in a clinic, and they come back, periodically, for doses, (432). In the psychological treatments, the drug abuse is “treated in the consulting rooms of psychiatrists, psychologists and other mental health workers,” (432). The psychological treatments are often combined with biological treatments, because the cravings of the person who is suffering need to be addressed. This is needed to reduce the physical dependence. This is an area that I need to do a great deal of studying on, because I don’t have personal experience with hard drugs. I think working closely with and learning about people who suffer from addiction can help me in my future as a counsellor.