Posted by: cindy | August 22, 2008

Night Eating Syndrome

MorganLast month, I met Morgan.  Morgan is a beautiful young woman about 23 years of age with long brunette hair and piercing hazel eyes.  She told me her ED story, a story of pain, embarrassment and humiliation.  Morgan had struggled with her weight since puberty.  She was always about twenty pounds overweight.  Her Mom constantly reminded her of it by telling her she would buy her a new wardrobe if she lost weight. 

Morgan starting noticing something was wrong.  She would wake up in the morning and find empty food wrappers on the floor next to her bed. She thought her younger brothers were torturing her, teasing her about her weight. She complained to her parents only to have them blame Morgan and make rude comments about her weight.  As time went on the food wrappers increased and now there were dirty dishes and empty leftover containers in her bed in the mornings.

Morgan finally put it all together and realized she was the one raiding the refrigerator at night and binging in her room, in her sleep.  The shame was overwhelming for Morgan, this was a behavior no one would believe or understand. She had decided that she was losing her mind and contemplated suicide.

Morgan became increasingly withdrawn as her night eating continued and her weight increased. One night, she put her suicide plan into action and it failed.  Her parents found her and took her to the ER where she was stabilized and transferred to the psychiatric unit. It was there, that Morgan learned what she was experiencing was a real disorder called Night-eating Syndrome, and most important to Morgan, that it wasn’t that uncommon. Two percent of adults in the general population have this problem, but research at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine suggests that about six percent of people who seek treatment for obesity have NES.

Morgan was transferred to an in-patient treatment center for eating disorders. Her weight dropped as the NES came under control with therapy and eventually disappeared. The treatment plan developed for her was holistic, treating her whole being, body, mind and spirit. The Medical Doctor managed her medications and medical issues and the Dietician developed a meal plan for Morgan that distributed her calorie intake throughout the day so that she was not so vulnerable to caloric loading in the evening. The counseling staff taught her new coping skills and stress reduction techniques using therapies such as psychodrama, equine, art, massage and cognitive/behavioral.  Morgan credits the treatment center for saving her life and most importantly her self worth.

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