Dr. Kimberly Dennis is the Medical Director at Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Anorexia Kills, Timberline Knolls Saves

Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center is in the business of saving lives, because we've known for years what a recent study reported in the July issue of Archives of General Psychiatry supports: individuals who have eating disorders have an elevated mortality rate, especially those with anorexia nervosa. This is an important study, but it may not go far enough.

I think it’s always important to have studies which validate and quantify what we have seen and known for decades clinically. But this type of research needs to be expanded to include bulimia and especially EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified), which is by far the most common and least likely to be treated of the eating disorders. My guess is that it is just as deadly as anorexia, just over a much longer period of time.

In the United States, as many as 10 million females and one million males are fighting a life and death battle with an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia, and millions more are struggling with binge eating disorder, according to the National Eating Disorder Association, which makes this study all the more relevant and critical.

The deadliness of eating disorders can never be overemphasized, since so many people, professionals and lay people alike, are in denial about the morbidity and mortality associated with eating disorders. We have long been advocates at the government level, fighting for the passage of bills to support eating disorder parity, and hope studies like this help in this arena, holding insurance companies accountable for paying for the amount and length of services needed to save lives from these deadly diseases. Recovery is possible, and help is available, when these diseases are taken seriously and recognized as fatal.

Monday, June 13, 2011

First Community Walk in Chicago to Help Raise Eating Disorder Awareness, One Step at a Time

Recovery from an eating disorder is a long and lengthy battle, and one that must be accomplished one step at a time. And on June 25, supporters and advocates will gather at 10:30 a.m. in Lincoln Park for the inaugural one-mile Chicago NEDA Walk, sponsored by Timberline Knolls.

The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) is bringing together the Chicago community to increase eating disorder awareness and raise funds to support individuals and families affected by eating disorders. Timberline Knolls is doing its part as the lead sponsor for the event and by forming its own walking team – The TK Trekkers – which will be led by me - with team participants that include staff, former residents, families and friends, and other behavioral health professionals. We have a goal to recruit 50 or more individuals to join its team for the event.

Awareness efforts are key in fighting eating disorders, and I hope many can join us on June 25, as we walk to raise awareness and help to fight these deadly diseases. If you can’t be there in person, any contribution will help NEDA continue to build on critical programs and services. We can all be part of the solution.

Chicago joins eight other cities around the country that will host upcoming walks in 2011: Napa, Calif.; Methuen, Mass.; Portland, Ore.; Florence, Mass.; Williamsburg, Va.; Charlottesville, Va.; Charlotte, N.C.; and NEDA’s largest walk will take place in New York City in October. Walks in other cities are continuously being added, which can be organized by anyone, anywhere. For more information on how to coordinate a walk in your city, visit http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/programs-events/neda-walk-coord.php.

You can pre-register for the Chicago walk online (http://neda.nationaleatingdisorders.org/site/TR?fr_id=1420&pg=entry) or in person beginning at 9:30 a.m. the morning of the event. Interested persons can join The TK Trekkers, form their own walking teams, or walk as individuals.

Eating disorders are serious, deadly diseases, but treatment is available, and lifelong recovery is possible for all those affected. We can all help to make a difference, one step at a time.

In the United States, as many as 10 million females and 1 million males are fighting a life and death battle with an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia, and millions more are struggling with binge eating disorder. This makes groups like NEDA all the more needed and important, and events to raise funds and awareness vital.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Bipolar Disorder, a Serious Psychiatric Disorder, Often Misdiagnosed By Professionals and Unrecognized by Loved Ones

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depressive disorder or manic depression, is a psychiatric disorder that causes extreme shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out everyday tasks. It is a serious mental illness requiring specialized treatment, but the problem is that bipolar disorder often gets misdiagnosed by professionals and is unrecognized by loved ones.

Bipolar disorder commonly co-occurs with other illnesses and addictions, making it hard to diagnose without a thorough diagnostic workup that includes looking at substance/drug abuse and use, and an evaluation for possible early life trauma – both of which can produce symptoms that look like bipolar disorder. Many times, residents come to Timberline Knolls with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, but once evaluated are properly diagnosed with a drug abuse problem, which looks similar to bipolar disorder when an individual is going through stages of intoxication and withdrawal. Additionally, the diagnosis of bipolar disorder can be missed by professionals who think the patient is just suffering from substance abuse or dependence.

Not only do professionals miss the diagnosis, but loved ones and family members many times do not recognize the real problem – either because they do not know what bipolar disorder is, or because they are focused on something else, such as a co-occurring drug abuse problem.

Signs of bipolar disorder in its manic state include:

•extended periods of feeling overly happy or outgoing
•extremely irritable mood, agitation, or jumpiness
•being easily distracted
•little to no sleep for several days in a row without feeling tired
•having an unrealistic belief in one's abilities
•behaving impulsively
•suicide attempts

Signs of bipolar disorder in its depressive state include:

•isolation from friends and family
•loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
•feeling tired or slowed down
•having problems concentrating, remembering, and making decisions
•abuse of alcohol and drugs, especially cocaine
•dependence on sleeping pills

A correct diagnosis of bipolar disorder, and ensuring the appropriate treatment is offered, is critical for those who face and treat bipolar disorder and co-occurring disorders. People with this illness can achieve long-term physical, emotional and spiritual recovery. Everyone needs to remember this is a disease, and the individual did not choose to have the disease. Sufferers can choose to get treatment and recover. Help is available and manageability is possible when someone is connected to the right support system and specialized treatment is sought.