Tiffany Skrezyna, 26, enjoys making cookies with her 4-year-old son Jackson. A few years ago such a food-centered activity would have cooked up more anxiety than pleasure for the Aurora mom who battled anorexia for about eight years.
Anorexia nervosa is marked by an intense fear of gaining weight, excessive dieting, a distorted body image and drastic weight loss. This potentially deadly eating disorder is estimated to affect 1 percent of adolescent females in the United States, but it can strike adults and adolescents of any age. About 10 percent of anorexia sufferers are males.
Joan Mrozek, manager of Eating Disorders Services at Linden Oaks at Edward, says self-acceptance is key in prevention and treatment of eating disorders.
“If you don’t love yourself, you’ll be less likely to make the best decisions about your well-being and more likely to look for a quick fix,” Mrozek says.
A victim of bullying at school, Skrezyna struggled with self-acceptance as a child. She began to seriously restrict her food intake when she was 13.
“I just wasn’t enjoying my life,” she says. “All I could focus on was controlling what I weighed.”
At 16 she attended a support group sponsored by ANAD, the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. There she learned about the Linden Oaks Eating Disorders Program for adults and adolescents 16 and older.
Patients in the program are referred to a level of care based on the severity of their disorder and the presence of any other physical or mental conditions. Tracks include inpatient care; a partial hospitalization program where the patient goes home nights; and an intensive outpatient program, involving a few hours of treatment each weekday. Completing the continuum of care is a transitional residential program, Arabella House.
In addition to medical treatment, patients receive individual and group therapy, and nutrition and exercise education. For some, outpatient care is appropriate throughout treatment. Others begin treatment as an inpatient, then step down to partial hospitalization or intensive outpatient care.
Skrezyna completed the inpatient to outpatient cycle — more than once.
“The problem (with sticking with recovery) was I was going for treatment only because someone else wanted me to. I always kept going back to the eating disorder as a backup plan.”
The turning point came in 2009, when Skrezyna was eight weeks pregnant with her first child.
“At my second OB-GYN appointment, I learned I had lost weight,” she recalls. “That was of more interest to me than hearing my baby’s heartbeat. I realized I no longer wanted to feel detached and focused only on weight — not for my sake or my baby’s.”
She returned again as an inpatient at Linden Oaks.
“I had learned a lot of good coping strategies in treatment, but I had always resisted dealing with my real issues. Now I was ready.”
Today Skrezyna is the mother of two children younger than 5 and stepmother to a 9-year-old girl.
“Things are so different now,” she says. “I can enjoy time with my family. I always believed that I would learn to change my behavior, but I’d struggle for the rest of my life with the thoughts (about weight). I no longer have those thoughts. I learned that full recovery from an eating disorder is possible.”
For more information, visit www.edward.org/eatingdisorders. To schedule a free behavioral health assessment, call 630-305-5027.
Health Aware is a weekly column courtesy of Edward Hospital