When it comes to doctors, we often accept their word as fact. We see them as a source of knowledge and truth. In reality, they are people, like you and I – just with a lot more knowledge, education, and experience in the medical field. Doctors are to be used as a tool for your recovery: one tool amongst many. They are not the be all and end all of your recovery. They can provide a diagnosis and help treat some of the physical damages that are the result of your eating disorder. They can give you referrals for therapists and inpatient facilities. They can monitor your progress during the initial stages of refeeding, to make sure that you are not at risk of re-feeding syndrome, and are gaining weight. They can talk to you about different methods of treatment. They can help and support you, but that help and support can be limited.
Doctors are professionals. They have studied for a long time, gotten numerous qualifications, and extensive training. However, that does not mean that they are always right. Doctors make mistakes. They also don’t know everything, and of course, science is always changing and finding new evidence that points in different directions. Science may be factual, but a lot of the time when human beings uncover evidence, we haven’t gotten the whole picture, and so time and time again we find new evidence that points to something else. We can never know anything for certain. So when it comes to eating disorders, not only is there barely any research on the subject in comparison to other medical topics, but there is barely any research on recovery methods, and doctors need to know a lot more before they can hand out any concrete advice. No one really knows what is successful and what is not. In fact, most treatment methods advocated by professionals have poor success rates. Eating disorder recovery is, at best, trial and error.
In addition to that, it is common knowledge that doctors in general are pretty good for physical ailments, but not so good when it comes to mental health. Individual doctors have their own judgements, opinions, and viewpoints that interfere with the way they give out medical advice, not to mention the lack of training on the subject of mental health. This means that doctors are lacking both information, training, and personal experience – which doesn’t really build a strong case for them when they hand out medical advice for eating disorders recovery. They don’t actually know what is best for people in recovery a lot of the time. Consult your doctor, listen to what they have to say, and make your own decisions based on what you think is best for you. If you follow your doctors advice and it isn’t working, it’s time to try out something new. This could mean seeing a new doctor. It could mean trying out a new recovery method.
There are so many reports of people being treated by their doctors in ways that have triggered them, caused them to relapse, harmed their recovery efforts, and given them the wrong information, that what they say surrounding this topic needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. This doesn’t mean that you should ignore everything that your doctor has to say, but it does mean being aware that doctors are just people. They do the best they can with people suffering from eating disorders, but when it comes down it, they don’t have a lot to go on. This also means that with some doctors, what they suggest will depend on their own ideas about the illness. You can go from one doctor to the next and get completely different recommendations for eating disorder recovery. They also are people that live in our society too – a society in which diet culture thrives. Their advice can be useful, but it doesn’t mean it is always right.
This also applies to other professionals, such as therapists, dieticians, nutritionists, and anyone else that you may come across on your recovery journey. It’s not all doom and gloom: I have stumbled upon, read about, and talked to other people about professionals that have given them terrible advice, but I and many others have also had experiences with wonderful professionals that have been incredibly helpful, supportive, and informative, and have done a lot for people on their journey to remission.