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Expert on eating disorders shares lessons from working with families

Eating Recovery Center's Dr. Craig Johnson discusses what's important for parents to know, talks about challenges facing families and the impact that eating disorders have on families. After nearly four decades of treating eating disorders, Dr. Craig Johnson has learned a few things about what parents need to know. Johnson is director of the Denver-based Eating Recovery Center, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Oklahoma Medical School, and co-founder and past president of the National Eating Disorders Association. He was in Portland Friday to address about 100 treatment providers as part of a "teaching day" sponsored by the Eating Recovery Center. Here are seven takeaways for parents from Johnson's presentation. 1. An eating disorder is a serious mental illness. Johnson argued that eating disorders should be viewed as in the same league with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression. "The defining characteristic of mental illness is that the person has lost perspective," he said. If parents don't understand this, they're likely to experience frustration and anger and to withdraw from a child who has an eating disorder, Johnson said. Fathers in particular can struggle with what he called a tendency to view eating disorders as "disorders of choice" and their children's struggles as "issues of will and discipline..." Read the full article.

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