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Stanford's eating disorder program owes its success to holistic treatment

Today's Palo Alto Online tells the inspirational story of Kristin, one of the thousands of patients who have been successfully treated for an eating disorder at Stanford. Krista was treated in the Comprehensive Eating Disorders Program at Stanford's Lucile Packard Children's Hospital (LPCH).

Eating disorders are often mistakenly blamed on the victims - who are considered overly susceptible to media messages and peer pressure - or even on their families. In fact, disorders such as anorexia nervosa are serious mental illnesses often accompanied by perfectionism and anxiety. LPCH's program takes this into account:

Because eating disorders impact both mental and physical health, Stanford's joint approach is the key to its philosophy, Dr. Cynthia Kapphahn, medical director for the program, said.

Not only do adolescent patients work with therapists and physicians, but also nurses, nutritionists and others in a team-based, holistic approach to care.

"There's even a school teacher to help patients stay caught up. It's one of the few places in the country like that," she said.

Anorexia, which has a higher mortality rate than any other mental illness, affects boys and girls of all races. It is especially prevalent among driven, high-performing youth stressed out by their own or others' high expectations. The article even suggests that LPCH's neighboring community, "with its culture of high academic standards and population of driven Silicon Valley go-getters," might be particularly susceptible. Luckily, it is also highly treatable: patients receiving proper treatment are usually cured within nine months to a year.

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