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Reviving Recovery: A Supplemental Approach in Treating Eating Disorders

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By Amy O’Sullivan

Eating disorders are bio-psycho-social diseases that affect nearly 20 million women and 10 million men in America (National Eating Disorder Association, 2018). They are serious but treatable illnesses that develop when a genetic predisposition is paired with an environmental activation. Out of all mental illnesses, eating disorders have the highest mortality rate, with one person dying as a direct result of an eating disorder every 62 minutes (Smink, Van Hoeken, & Hoek, 2012). Eating disorders adversely affect every aspect of human life, including physical and mental health, intrapersonal and interpersonal relationships, professional pursuits, sense of meaning and purpose, and overall well-being. Existing treatment methods provide opportunities for individuals with eating disorders to interrupt and reduce symptoms. Relapse during and soon after treatment, however, is extremely common. The field of eating disorders has not yet pivoted to address what patients need to sustain recovery and thrive. Positive psychology’s theory, research, and interventions present a supplemental treatment approach for practitioners to implement to revive the recovery process to increase the success for those struggling with eating disorders. Positive psychology can operate to empower and motivate patients, reconnecting them to their meaning and purpose outside of the illness. This paper discusses eating disorders in-depth, recognizes and applauds traditional treatment methods, and proposes how enhancing positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishment can further promote recovery.

See Amy’s full capstone on Penn’s Scholarly Commons website.

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