December, 2009 Swimming in the Riptide | Holiday Survival Guide | Effective Treatment for All Eating Disorders

Swimming in the Riptide: A Psychiatrist Discovers the Power of Mind-Body-Spirit Healing

Since 2005, Mirasol and its clients have benefited greatly from the dedicated service of Dr. Sharon Meglathery, a talented young doctor with training in both internal medicine and psychiatry. In the following article, Dr. Meglathery describes her first days at Mirasol, and her voyage from reliance on traditional medical-model treatment to the discovery of the efficacy of holistic treatment of eating disorders.

By Sharon Meglathery, MD

A PSYCIATRIST DISCOVERS HOLISTIC TREATMENTI am a traditionally trained, East Coast physician with board certification in both internal medicine and psychiatry. However, when I arrived at Mirasol, I knew little about alternative medicine or the holistic treatment of eating disorders. I had been taught that eating disorders were very dangerous and difficult to treat, and that other than Prozac for bingeing and purging, antipsychotics for irrational thinking and appetite stimulation, and topiramate for appetite suppression, no medications have proven very effective for treating these dangerous conditions.

Arriving with an open mind, I was greeted during my first psychiatric evaluation by a very guarded, hostile young woman who quickly informed me that she had chosen Mirasol because she never again wanted to be controlled or tortured by psychiatrists in a “so called treatment center,” and that there was no way she would take any medication.


Holiday Survival Guide: Strategies for Women with Eating Disorders


For women who are struggling with eating disorders and depression, the holidays be extremely stressful. Most holiday events revolve around food, and there may be pressure from well-meaning friends and family to eat and drink more than is comfortable for us. Dysfunctional family interactions are another source of stress. For some of us, holidays may bring up unpleasant memories of previous occasions. For others, holidays never quite live up to expectations. If we use eating disorder behaviors as a way of coping with stress in our lives, it's almost guaranteed that the holidays will be a time when we're most active in our behaviors, experiencing consequent increases in depression, guilt, shame, fear, anxiety, and low self-esteem.

Therapists can help their clients through these difficulties by inviting them to role-play potentially stressful scenarios, and developing structured plans for navigating the holidays, as well as practicing assertiveness techniques to deal with family and social pressures. Your therapist may advise you to limit your exposure to particularly "toxic" people and destructive interactions. But what if your therapist isn't available during the holidays?