Should They Just Give Up On Us? Docs Argue
I recently came acorss Dr. Sarah Pavin’s blog and love it – Sarah (pictured) is a physchologist in Florida who specialized in ED.
In a blog post recently, she discusses an article in the International Journal of Eating Disorders entitled Managing the Chronic, Treatment-Resistant Patient with Anorexia Nervosa (Strober, 2004).
The author, Michael Strober, seeks to help readers “resolve the paradox of caring for patients who seem so decidedly opposed to change.” Essentially, Strober advises psychologists to avoid pushing, or even encouraging, full nutrition and weight restoration in chronically ill patients with AN because these attempts will backfire by upsetting the patient emotionally and thus leading to premature termination of therapy. Instead, he argues, therapists “can expect little, should seek nothing, and must largely defer to the patient in regards to the objective of the time shared together.”
Strober states that the therapist’s attempts to encourage re-feeding “will feel like an assault” to the patient and are “certain to induce peril.” He warns therapists that their efforts to coerce patients into hospitalization or other much-needed medical care will result in “a potentially dangerous exacerbation of symptoms.”
The article presents two tragic case studies of women in their late 20’s who have been chronically ill with AN since early adolescence. Each story is presented as a cautionary tale describing the deleterious effects of requiring full nutrition and weight restoration in these types of patients.
Finally, Strober admonishes therapists to be aware of their counter-transference with such patients and advises them to “concede the reality that there may be little to do to drastically alter the course of a patient’s illness,” and notes that “this is neither failure nor inferiority.”
She persuasively argues against such a theory, saying that “I am not able to sit impassively with a patient who has been ill for fifteen years without taking draconian measures to propel her towards health. I recognize that responsibility for her recovery, at least initially, lies with me and with her family. I would not expect a patient with that level of illness to embrace recovery. That’s my job, not hers.
Individuals with AN are almost universally brilliant, talented, sensitive, and intense. They have so much potential, so many gifts to offer the world. They are physicians and nurses and lawyers, scientists and professors and teachers. They are outstanding athletes, writers, singers, dancers, actresses, and artists.”
In essence – shouldn’t we do everything possible to keep them alive?
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