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Hello Idaho: Treating eating disorders

"Don’t ignore signs and symptoms, because this is a deadly disease," said Dr. Julie Wood.

BOISE, Idaho — One person dies every 52 minutes from an untreated eating disorder according to the  National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders.

Optum Idaho's Dr. Julie Wood says eating disorders can include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder, also known as ARFID.

A wide range of people can end up suffering from eating disorders, she said.

“I’ve treated individuals as young as 12, but when we really delve into the history it often looks like their eating disorder started as early as eight or nine," Wood said. "On the flip side, I’ve treated people well into their 70’s, so eating disorder does not affect just one specific population or group of individuals.”

Food is a source of control in some types of eating disorders, but the behavior can be accompanied by depression or anxiety, she said. 

"One study has shown less than 13% of adolescents receive treatment for eating disorders and approximately one-fourth of people with eating disorders will attempt suicide,” Wood said.

Wood urged those struggling with an eating disorder to reach out for help, adding that there are signs and symptoms others can be on the lookout for.

“Individuals will start with very strict diets, start using diet pills, laxatives, or diuretics. Don’t ignore signs and symptoms, because this is a deadly disease," she said. "The hope is that it’s treatable. I’ve seen people come in in really severe physical and mental shape, but they leave treatment and have lead really healthy and productive lives.”

Dr. Wood says there are many effective types of treatment for eating disorders through therapy, dieticians, internists, and psychiatrists.

If you or a loved one needs help with an eating disorder call the Optum Member  Access and Crisis Line at 855-202-0973 or call the Idaho Careline at 2-1-1.

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