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Understanding Eating Disorders

This month we caught up with Natasha Jivan, who runs Insight Psychology Clinic at Maroochydore, to learn more about one of her primary areas of treatment: eating disorders. Below she has shared with us some important insights to help us understand the condition and those close to us who may be dealing with it. ...

What are some of the biggest misconceptions about eating disorders? - An eating disorder is not a lifestyle choice, it is a serious mental illness that affects a person’s relationship with food and their body. Some individuals with eating disorders often see themselves as much larger than they actually are. This is a phenomena caused by the brain known as body dysmorphia. This symptom can drive the individual to engage in behaviours that keep their weight, shape and size under very strict control but this is not just as simple as a diet gone wrong. - It is a misconception that people with eating disorders are vain. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The reason that I enjoy working with these clients, is that they are commonly sensitive and empathic people. The idea of them being vain or self absorbed is often portrayed in the media but this is not my experience. ... What are some important facts about eating disorders that people should know? - The illness is the problem, NOT the individual. Recovering from an eating disorder challenges both the individual and the family. Often the illness does not want the person to get better, rather it would like them to remain unwell. This can be very confusing for people to understand but is often due to the person feeling as though they are not worthy of being healthy and living a fulfilled life without the eating disorder. In the same way, families do not cause this illness. It is a balance between both genes and the environment.

- Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate out of all mental illnesses. Whilst other disorders have more awareness, more people die each year from eating disorders which is why we need to increase awareness around these illnesses. We also need to challenge the media’s portrayal of an eating disorder being the skeletal girl on the beach. Eating disorders present in different people, sizes and forms. ... Is recovery possible? Recovery is absolutely possible! I witness it everyday at Insight Psychology Clinic which is why I am so passionate about the job that I do. I have spent over 10 years working in this area and have helped countless people regain their lives from this illness. This illness is complex because it has biological, psychological and social factors involved. This illness affects the physical functioning of the body and brain through a lack of adequate nutrition and also has psychological components. Once an individual enters treatment with a skilled team, they can better understand the relationship between all of these factors and recovery begins. Many people do not seek help for these illnesses which makes recovery more challenging, so I would highly encourage people who feel like they are struggling to reach out. ... Where can people go to if they need help themselves, or would like to help others? There are some great resources available for individuals, carers and professionals: National Eating Disorders Collaboration; website The Butterfly The Eating Issues Centre Eating Disorders Association

... If you need assistance, or would like to speak with Natasha, you can contact 0434 481 839, or visit To learn more, visit, or call Natasha on 0434 481 839.

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