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Teenage Eating Disorders and Acupuncture – a new Avenue of Support?

July 19, 2023

Eating Disorders – the Facts


Eating disorders are a significant mental health concern and over the last decade we have been seeing more and more of them. It is estimated that approximately 9% of the global population will experience an eating disorder at some point in their lives. It can affect individuals across all ages, although they are more commonly reported among teens and young adults.

The most well known eating disorder are: anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder.  However the most common eating disorder is Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, or EDNOS. This covers a wide range of pathological eating habits even though the sufferer might be able to maintain a normal weight.


Why are eating disorders on the rise?


The alarming rise in eating disorders can be attributed to a multitude of factors, including social pressures and unrealistic beauty standards. Without a doubt it is true that social media and tv are full of those who are ‘body perfect’ and there is a strong focus and value placed on looks and appearances nowadays.

Family dynamics, genetic predisposition, and psychological vulnerabilities may play a role for some children as well. There are usually many factors involved and not all of them are well understood.


Understanding Eating Disorders


Eating_Disorder_TreatmentEating disorders are severe mental health conditions characterised by abnormal eating behaviours and distorted body image. They often stem from a combination of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors. Eating disorders can have devastating consequences, affecting various aspects of a person’s life, including physical health, emotional well-being, and social interactions.

An eating disorder is a complex condition that requires a comprehensive treatment approach that addresses both the physiological and psychological aspects of the disorder. While traditional therapeutic methods are widely used, complementary therapies like acupuncture have gained attention for their potential role in supporting the recovery process.


Conventional Approaches to Eating Disorder Treatment


Standard treatment protocols for eating disorders typically involve a combination of therapies, including psychotherapy, nutritional counselling, and medical intervention when necessary. These approaches address the underlying psychological factors, promote healthy eating habits, and provide the necessary support for physical recovery. However, given the complex nature of these disorders, additional therapeutic options may be beneficial in enhancing treatment outcomes.


The Role of Acupuncture in Eating Disorders


Acupuncture, which is a part of of traditional Chinese medicine, involves the insertion of thin needles into specific points on the body. It aims to restore the flow of Energy throughout the body. Acupuncture has increasingly been explored as a complementary treatment for various mental health conditions, including eating disorders.



Benefits of Acupuncture in Eating Disorder Treatment


Acupuncture supports the body, mind and spirit and eating disorders are a disease of all three. It has the potential to influence the persons thinking, feelings and physical health.

Eating disorders take their toll on the body and acupuncture can help mitigate those effects. This means the person remains healthier than they would otherwise be, until their eating habits normalise again. Acupuncture may address symptoms associated with eating disorders, such as digestive problems, insomnia, and hormonal imbalances, aiding overall recovery.

One of the great benefits of acupuncture is that it is not necessary to talk about the eating disorder at length. The practitioner does not need to see food diaries or weigh the person. This may be particularly beneficial in teenagers who often don’t feel like talking or going into details.


Research and Evidence


While research on acupuncture specifically for eating disorders is limited, some studies suggest that it may be a promising adjunctive therapy. A small-scale study published in the Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies showed that acupuncture, in combination with conventional treatment, improved body mass index and reduced anxiety and depression scores in participants with anorexia nervosa. Further research is necessary to establish its efficacy and understand the mechanisms underlying its potential benefits.


Integrating Acupuncture into Treatment


Acupuncture is typically used as a complementary therapy alongside conventional treatment for eating disorders. A patient centered approach is important and collaborative efforts between mental health professionals, acupuncturists, and other healthcare providers are essential.

Acupuncture treatment is tailored to individual needs and offers a holistic approach, creating a synergistic effect that supports recovery. It is not a standalone treatment for eating disorders however it shows promise as a complementary therapy in supporting the recovery process. With a collaborative approach, those with eating disorders can explore new avenues of healing and find the support they need on their journey to recovery.


How do I make a booking?


Marieke has a keen interest in working with young individuals who are suffering from an eating disorder. She has undertaken paediatric acupuncture training in the UK and has a patient centered, warm approach to supporting those with eating disorders. You can book your appointment online here or if you would like to speak to us first you can give us a call on 0414 067 874.