Can Technology Help Treat Eating Disorders?

Dessert in a plate with woman behind

The concept behind smart homes is that every appliance you use can be controlled through an app or any particular device. In fact, you can change some settings even while you’re away from home. These are only some of the latest applications of how the Internet has improved a person’s quality of life, even though not everyone has gotten the hang of it yet.

There are also applications that help people look after their health. Sleep trackers and wearable gadgets, for instance, help monitor and record exercise progress for the day. Does the same principle apply when the enemy is an eating disorder? These are hurdles developers need to address before they can say yes:

Technology Lacks Empathy

The usual form of eating disorder treatment requires a patient to consult professionals in Westport (or wherever they live) to help them tackle the problem from the roots. It’s easy to program a device to ask a set of questions that will determine if the patient is indeed suffering from an eating disorder, but it will not be able to look at each case with the same empathy that a professional can.

A professional can see that a teenager is anorexic because of peer pressure or an underlying mental health condition due to familial neglect. A gadget, on the other hand, may only see a person as someone who does not eat the required amount of food each day. In the end, the diagnosis could be accurate, but treatment might not fit the patient.

Technology Can be Easily Ignored

Watch showing the RPM

It feels good when your exercising app gives the virtual equivalent of a pat on the back. You get encouraging words that tell you’ve broken your own record and that you’ve burned a certain number of calories. You can also set your weight goals and track your progress using the app.

When it comes to dealing with eating disorders, however, encouragements have to come after a trigger has been successfully evaded. Even if the tech can warn you against eating a midnight snack and putting back that second helping of cake, could it completely stop you?

Exercise apps do not force you to exercise since they only track your progress. If an eating disorder app only tracks your progress, and you see negative results every day, you’ll find it even easier to ignore it.

Technology Does Not Actively Prevent a Relapse

The best way to make apps useful in treating eating disorders is by incorporating helplines into their functionalities. A patient might need help after a binge, and it will be convenient to have an app that directs them to the right people at the right time.

Severe anorexia put people at great risk, making immediate help extremely important. Then again, this means a patient should be mindful enough to know that they have relapsed. For many, the reality is that they think one more binge will not make a difference. It would still be better if a professional were helping a patient deal with their triggers.

Isolation is the last thing you want if you’re dealing with eating disorders. Rather than resorting to self-help apps and articles, turn to a professional.


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