Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Expect TX Resistance from Athletes with Eating Disorders

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Expect TX Resistance from Athletes with Eating Disorders

Article excerpt

VANCOUVER, B.C. -- Athletes who develop eating disorders represent a treatment challenge for mental health professionals, Dr. Roberta Trattner Sherman said at the international conference on eating disorders sponsored by the University of New Mexico.

Athletes--particularly those engaged in sports that encourage thinness, such as gymnastics, long-distance running, and diving--are prone to developing eating disorders. These athletes can be difficult to treat because their identity is often defined by athletics, and it can be devastating if they are required to give up sports.

There are similarities between a good athlete and a person who is anorexic. But at what point does the mental toughness of an athlete become the extremism of a person with anorexia?

When does the commitment to training become excessive exercise, the pursuit of excellence become perfectionism, amenability to coaching become overcompliance, and the endurance of pain become denial of discomfort? It's a fine line, said Dr. Sherman, who treats college athletes in the Bloomington Hospital Eating Disorders Program in Bloomington, Ind.

She noted that some aspects of the athletic environment can exacerbate the risk for developing eating disorders. For example, sports like diving and swimming require athletes to wear revealing attire, which can make them feel self-conscious about their bodies. The competitiveness of sports may become a competition to achieve thinness. …

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