Questions to Ask When Considering Eating Disorders Treatment Options

There are various approaches to eating disorders treatment. It is important to find an option that is most effective for your needs.

Learn to ask the appropriate questions when considering treatment for eating disorders and find an option that is most effective for your eating disorder needs.There are many differing approaches to the treatment of eating disorders. No one approach is considered superior for everyone, however, it is important to find an option that is most effective for your needs. The following is a list of questions you might want to ask when contacting eating disorder support services. These questions apply to an individual therapist, treatment eating disorder facility, other eating disorder support services, or any combination of treatment options.

  1. How long have you been treating eating disorders?
  2. How are you licensed? What are your training credentials?
  3. What is your treatment style? Please note that there are many different types of treatment styles available. Different approaches to treatment may be more or less appropriate for you dependent upon your individual situation and needs.
  4. What kind of evaluation process will be used in recommending a treatment plan?
  5. What kind of medical information do you need? Will I need a medical evaluation before entering the program?
  6. What is your appointment availability? Do you offer after-work or early morning appointments? How long do the appointments last? How often will we meet?
  7. How long will the treatment process take? When will we know it's time to stop treatment?
  8. Are you reimbursable by my insurance? What if I don't have insurance or mental health benefits under my health care plan? It is important for you to research your insurance coverage policy and what treatment alternatives are available in order for you and your treatment provider to design a treatment plan that suits your coverage.
  9. Ask the facility to send information brochures, treatment plans, treatment prices, etc. The more information the facility is able to send in writing, the better informed you will be.

With a careful search, the provider you select will be helpful. But, if the first time you meet with him or her is awkward, don't be discouraged. The first few appointments with any treatment provider are often challenging. It takes time to build up trust in someone with whom you are sharing highly personal information. If you continue to feel that you need a different therapeutic environment, you may need to consider other providers.

next: Questions to Ask Your Eating Disorder Treatment Provider
~ eating disorders library
~ all articles on eating disorders

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2008, November 23). Questions to Ask When Considering Eating Disorders Treatment Options, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, January 27 from

Last Updated: January 14, 2014

Questions to Ask Your Eating Disorder Treatment Provider

When seeking treatment for an eating disorder, these are the questions you may want to ask your eating disorder treatment provider.Once you have chosen a treatment provider, you may want to consider asking these questions in your first meeting.

Remember that at any time during eating disorders treatment, you can raise questions and consult your treatment provider regarding areas of concern.

Questions for Treatment Providers:

  1. What is the diagnosis? See eating disorder symptoms.
  2. What treatment plan do you recommend?
  3. Will you or someone else conduct the treatment? If someone else, does that person work for you or would this be a referral? Will you supervise the treatment?
  4. What are the alternative treatments?
  5. What are the benefits and the risks associated with the recommended treatment? With the alternative treatments?
  6. What role will family members or friends play in treatment?

Questions for Parents:

  1. How can I help to support my child during treatment? What is my role within the treatment?
  2. How often will you talk to me about my child's progress?
  3. What if my child doesn't want to participate in eating disorder therapy?

next: How Do I Begin Recovering from My Eating Disorder
~ eating disorders library
~ all articles on eating disorders

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2008, November 23). Questions to Ask Your Eating Disorder Treatment Provider, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, January 27 from

Last Updated: January 14, 2014

Snow on the Mountain

Lately, I've been taking care of myself by exercising. I've taken up walking and have set a goal for 2 to 3 miles every day. Rather than going to a gym, I've simply mapped out some routes through the neighborhood where I live.

It takes a solid 55 minutes for me to complete a 3-mile round trip, but it feels wonderful to work up a sweat and to know that I'm burning calories and exercising my heart. I'll be 40 in February and I've realized it's time for me to start taking better care of myself physically.

Exercise is mentally stimulating as well. It wards off depression and sluggishness. After just 1 week of regular walking, I feel better prepared to handle the stress of my work day—especially if I walk in the morning. Also, the discipline of getting up and doing something physical every morning enhances my self-esteem, which has suffered lately from work situations. I just feel better about myself when I exercise regularly.

During my walks, I've been revisiting the 12 Steps rather than listening to music or news on a radio. When I'm outside walking, it is just me and God, reflecting on how I can continue growing spiritually.

Walking is also a fantastic way to enjoy nature. I see twice as much—things I would never notice from a car. One route takes me past a canal full of aquatic birds—cranes, egrets, wild ducks—which aren't afraid of me in the least. They watch me pass by, but don't run or fly away. One evening, I noticed a gorgeous woodpecker—a black and white body and a vibrant, red head—it was like looking at an Audubon Society picture-book.

There are also endless varieties of flowers to see.

Just last night, I walked past a house which had an unusual shrub next to the mailbox. This plant was covered with tiny pink leaves. Pink flowers are not unusual, but a pink shrub? It was so unusual and so beautiful I made a point to walk past it again. This time, an older woman, whom I presume was the resident, was pruning the shrub, so I paused to ask her about it.

She was delighted I had taken notice and was obviously proud of this particular addition to her yard. She offered me a handful of the trimmings for closer inspection. Turns out she was not pruning, but making a bouquet. "Take some home with you and enjoy looking at it," she said. "It's called Snow on the Mountain."

I smiled at the poetic name, perfectly descriptive of the plant's natural beauty. I asked her if I could stop by and photograph it. Of course, she agreed.

Serenity is making the time to see the world and its natural beauty. Serenity is feeling good about our place in the world, regardless of our present circumstances. Serenity is knowing unexpected treasures and gifts await us along the path of self-discovery and healing. All we are required to do is open our hearts, start walking, and partake of the grace and love in which we are held.

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Dear God, thank You for the process of self-discovery and self-growth. Thank You for teaching me valuable lessons from the little surprises You place along my path every day. Amen.

next: Walls and Bridges

APA Reference
Staff, H. (2008, November 23). Snow on the Mountain, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, January 27 from

Last Updated: August 8, 2014

Were You Loved As A Child?

Self-Therapy For People Who ENJOY Learning About Themselves

Many people scoff whenever this topic comes up. "What difference does it make now?" they ask.
"There are some people who like me now, and maybe some of them even love me." "So what, if I wasn't loved as a child!?"

That's the question I will be answering. And I'll tell you what you can do about it, too.


I am talking here specifically about whether you were loved as a child. I am not necessarily talking about whether you were liked, or wanted, or appreciated for helping the adults, or anything else.

The best way to tell if someone loves you is probably to ask yourself: "Do they often show that they are happier just by being in my presence?" When someone feels this way, their face lights up and there's warmth in their eyes. If you can remember many times like this when you were a child, you are very lucky indeed. You were loved.


When a child feels the love of parents in their very early years, they immediately know they have value in the world. As they get older they automatically assume they will "fit in" with other kids
and that they will be able to do whatever anyone else can do. (Real life will show them this isn't always true, but they'll be surprised when they learn it. Kids who weren't well loved are surprised when they discover that they do fit in and can do things well.)

As adults, someone who was loved as a child will find it easy to believe they are lovable and it will also be easy for them to love anyone who doesn't regularly mistreat them.


If you have always wondered if you are valuable - at work, in your relationships, at play, verywhere - then you still need to get and absorb enough love. You need to focus on finding people who are capable of loving and then learn to take their love deep into that part of your brain where you realize your own worth.


Romantic love from one person probably won't be enough, although it sure will help! Being deeply valued by people who you initially think are "better" than you will help the most.

So notice the kind of relationships you have with people who you think of as better than you. Do you always stay far away from such people? When they show that they value you, do you think they are just manipulating or that they don't really care? Psychologically, these people are some of the "new parents" the world has provided for you. Learn to believe them when they sincerely care about you and your welfare.


Maybe you do have the sense that you are valuable as a human being but you still doubt whether you fit in with others socially - and whether you can handle life's demands. This happens to people who were loved enough as infants and toddlers but who stopped feeling loved later in their young lives when things got more complicated. Their parents' love seemed to go away when they made mistakes (which, of course, happened many times every day).

If this sounds like you, what you need is to do a lot of exploring with people who accept you as you are. While you and your friend explore new activities and strange places together you will notice that your friend likes you and enjoys your company regardless of whether you handle things well, poorly, or in between. You will know you are acceptable, good enough, and valued in your friend's eyes - regardless.

A lover or a very close friend can be excellent as your "partner in exploration." Friends in a therapy group or a good support group can also be excellent in this role.


Once you have absorbed enough love from people who you initially thought were "superior" to you, and have felt loved and accepted while exploring the world with your friends, you are emotionally ready to fully absorb the love other people have for you. And you are almost ready to begin spreading your love to others.

You might say: "But I've always loved other people, even when I didn't love myself." And, in a sense, you are right. You probably did love other people as well as you possibly could considering the amount of love you had to spare. But once you feel plenty of self-love - and no longer fear that it will go away - you will have much more to share and you will have much stronger impulses to share it.


Love isn't some limited commodity you need to guard carefully. It's abundant in the world if it's abundant in you.

I wish all our parents knew this when we were born, but I'm very glad we can learn about unlimited love at any age.

Enjoy Your Changes!

Everything here is designed to help you do just that!

next: What Terror Does To Us

APA Reference
Staff, H. (2008, November 23). Were You Loved As A Child?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, January 27 from

Last Updated: March 30, 2016


Self-Therapy For People Who ENJOY Learning About Themselves


A 28 year old man came to therapy because his wife insisted, under threat of divorce. He talked only of his business, saying nothing at all about his wife, his children, or his friends.

He had built a successful business which he recently sold at a very high profit. Now he wanted to do this again in a new industry.

He was extremely worried that he would fail, sweating and even shaking as he talked about it.

He said he had vowed: "I won't be happy until I make my first million."

When I mentioned that he could be happy much sooner if he would change his decision, he became enraged, stomped out of my office, and said: "I won't change it! Ever!"

I never saw him again.

If he doesn't change, he won't be wealthy or happy. He will be a failure.


Success is accomplishing what you set out to accomplish.


We don't want success for its own sake. We want it so we can ENJOY it!

To be able to enjoy it, we must first be successful at personal goals such as:

Taking care of our bodies.

Enjoying our family and friends.

Controlling our thoughts.

(See all other topics in this series!)



Success does not occur in a straight line.

It's a journey with many curves and dead-ends.

Success requires you to be ready to reevaluate your decisions at any time.


1. Set a very general goal that you know will make you happy in your work.
2. Don't decide on a specific "straight-line" path you will follow to get there.
3. Take advantage of every opportunity you find that is even slightly related to accomplishing your goal.

Your task is only to get there!

Your path will change every day.

You must be ready for the changes.


Set the most general goal you can possibly set.

Good Example: "I will run my own business someday."

Too Specific: "I will open a restaurant" or "I will make at least $100,000 within five years."


Simply Choose To Get There!

Here's the kind of path most people select:
"First I will take business courses in college, then I will borrow some money from my parents, then I will open a small restaurant and serve excellent food, and then I will use the proceeds from this to open a larger restaurant which will make me rich."

Of course, these specific ideas (such as going to school) may be good for you. But don't confuse the steps along your path with the goal itself. You may fail at school, or your parents might refuse you the loan, but you can still succeed by expecting that there will be changes and by being ready to make changes in your path as they are needed.


When you meet someone who likes to discuss problems associated with running their own business, pick their brain. Do this even if you don't respect the person's thinking! (They might serve as a good "bad example.")

When you hear of a seminar on franchise operations, go to it even if you know that you'd never want to own a franchise. They are certain to discuss many things which relate to your goal.

When you receive a service of any kind, always pick the independent entrepreneurs. Who knows what might come from meeting them?

If you follow some "straight-line" path toward success, you won't even notice all of these smaller, almost daily opportunities for pursuing your goal. Successful people will tell you that it was these smaller opportunities, which seemed almost lucky to them at the time, that made them succeed.

Being "lucky" comes from choosing a goal and a path which are general enough to allow you to seize life's regularly occurring opportunities!


Don't spend all of your time and energy working toward success.

Spend it on the person who will be achieving the goal: YOU!

Enjoy Your Changes!

Everything here is designed to help you do just that!


next: My Wishes For Real People

APA Reference
Staff, H. (2008, November 23). Success, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, January 27 from

Last Updated: September 28, 2017

The Root of All Happiness And Contentment

COMPARISONS. Your mind makes them all the time. And whether you are content or dissatisfied depends entirely on what you are comparing your life to.

The problem is, we live in a culture where advertisers are constantly giving us perfect images to compare ourselves with: people with perfect homes and cars and spouses and children, and they give us the illusion that this perfection is somehow possible.

The advertisers are taking advantage of the way our minds work naturally. You automatically and naturally compare yourself and your life to others and with your own ideals and aspirations.

Although the process of comparison happens without your active effort, it is a process you can assume control of. Like your own own breathing, it happens on its own, but you can make it do what you want at any time. All you have to do is pay attention to it.

Here's what to do: When you feel discontented, ask yourself What could be worse? And really try to think of something.

If you feel unhappy because you haven't advanced in your job as fast as you'd hoped, imagine how you'd feel if you lived in a country or a time when advancement wasn't possible. Imagine being an "untouchable" in India, sentenced to generation after generation of poverty with no chance of escape.

Try this technique and you'll recognize that in many ways you're lucky to be where you are and who you are. It's a good feeling. It's relaxing and peaceful. It won't last very long, but you can always do it again. The technique works every time.

If you think this is a technique for starry-eyed dreamers with their heads in the clouds, try reading some books that give you an idea of realities you can compare your own life with. My choices would be: Free the Children, Man's Search For Meaning, and Endurance.

If you have any questions about how to use this technique or you'd like to share with me what happened when you did, write to me at I would love to hear from you. I will not put your name on a mailing list of any kind.

Find out why failing at losing weight may be a good thing.
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How can negative thinking actually make you feel better?
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How can you make people like you for five cents?
Click here.

How can it improve your life to take less responsibility?
Click here

The ancient Hindus used the same technique as modern cognitive therapy to lessen human suffering. Curious?
Click here

The secret of success is persistence. But how can you become more persistent? There's a hard way and an easy way.
Click here

Enhance the quality of your life using a technique developed in one of Hitler's concentration camps.
Click here

How is it possible that pessimistic thoughts in your head could shut down your immune system? The evidence is in.
Click here

Abraham Lincoln was probably the greatest, most profoundly moral president ever to be elected to office. Do you know what he thought about religion?
Click here

next: What Was Abraham Lincoln's Religion?

APA Reference
Staff, H. (2008, November 23). The Root of All Happiness And Contentment, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, January 27 from

Last Updated: March 30, 2016

Burn Your Own BTUs

Chapter 61 of the book Self-Help Stuff That Works

by Adam Khan:

MIHALY CSIKSZENTMIHALYI has been doing some fascinating research into creativity and enjoyment at the University of Chicago for over thirty years now. He invented a new way to study enjoyment. It's called the Experience Sampling Method.

Basically, subjects are given a pager and a booklet, and then they go about their normal lives. At random intervals eight times each day, the pager goes off. The subjects immediately stop what they're doing and fill out the questionnaire in the booklet.

Each questionnaire is identical. It asks what they're doing, where they are, and who they're with. Then it asks them to mark where they are on several scales of experience, such as one to seven to indicate where they are from "happy" to "very sad."

After collecting over a hundred thousand of these samples, Csikszentmihalyi had a huge fund of raw information. He began to wonder, "Are people happier when they use more material resources in their leisure activities? Or are they happier when they invest more of themselves?" In other words his question was, "If I spend my day off going to a movie and out to dinner (or using resources and electricity in some way), will I have a more enjoyable day off than I would if I spent the day gardening or reading or talking or doing something requiring just my own effort?"

Which is ultimately more enjoyable? Using energy outside yourself, or using your own energy?

What would you guess? To answer the question, Csikszentmihalyi and his colleagues went back through the data and sorted each experience sample by the amount of energy being used. They measured the material resources in units of energy called BTUs (British Thermal Units, the energy it takes to raise one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit) and sifted the data in search of an answer.


What they found surprised everyone. The fewer BTUs a person used in his leisure, the more he enjoyed it. Those time-off activities like watching TV, driving, boating, or anything that used electricity or expensive equipment were less enjoyable than self-powered activities like conversing with a friend, working on a hobby, training a dog, or gardening. This goes against the prevailing notions of what's enjoyable. "Everybody knows" it would be more fun cruising on a yacht drinking margaritas than building a bookshelf in your basement. "Everybody knows" it would be more fun to go to the movies than it would to sit home and read a book. But according to the research, that's not the case. Certainly those high-BTU activities are easier and more immediately appealing. But not more enjoyable.

When the pager went off and the participants stopped and checked how much they were enjoying what they were doing, they discovered something truly illuminating: The most fun things don't cost much.

Is this true for you? Test it. On your next two days off, do something that uses up material resources the first day, and the next day, have a friend over and converse or do something powered by your own energy. You'll see a difference. The activity might not be as titillating at the moment, but when your day is done, you'll be more satisfied with the self-powered day.

Do you want some first-class leisure? Find an interest and pursue it. Turn off the TV and use your own energy. You may be surprised to find it doesn't wear you out but fully refreshes you.

This is extremely good news. It's good for your pocketbook, it's good for the planet, and it's good for your own enjoyment. Use more of your own BTUs on your time off and the world will be a better place.

Use your own energy during your leisure time.

Achieving goals is sometimes difficult. When you feel discouraged, check this chapter out. There are three things you can do to make the achievement of your goals more likely.
Do You Want to Give Up?

Some tasks are just plain boring and yet they have
to be done. Washing the dishes, for example.
Learn how to make the tasks more fun.
A Terrible Thing to Waste

Scientists have found out some interesting facts about happiness. And much of your happiness is under your influence.
Science of Happiness

Find peace of mind, tranquility in body, and clarity of purpose with this simple method.
Constitutional Right

The questions you ask direct your mind. Asking the right kind of questions makes a big difference.
Why Ask Why?

next: How to Earn More Money

APA Reference
Staff, H. (2008, November 23). Burn Your Own BTUs, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, January 27 from

Last Updated: March 31, 2016

Bathing the Alzheimer's Patient

Bathing a patient with Alzheimer's or dementia is often a difficult task for the caregiver. Here are some suggestions.

For most adults, washing is a personal and private activity. When you are helping someone with Alzheimer's to wash, it's important to be sensitive and tactful, and to respect their dignity. A few simple considerations can help to ensure that washing and bathing remains a relaxing experience for both of you.

Personal care, including washing and bathing, is a common source of anxiety for people with Alzheimer's and their caregivers. It's not hard to understand why - most of us have been carrying out these activities on our own since we were small children.

There are some particularly common reasons for anxiety among people with Alzheimer's, including:

  • Deep bath water
    Deep water can make some people feel worried. You can reassure them by making sure the bath water is shallow, or by setting up a bath seat for them to use.
  • Overhead showers
    Some people find the rush of water from an overhead shower frightening or disorienting. A hand-held shower may work better.
  • Incontinence
    This may be a sensitive issue for both of you. If the person has an accident, they may feel ashamed. They may refuse to admit that it has happened, or to wash afterwards. Try to be reassuring. A matter-of-fact approach, or humor, may work well. Adopt an approach that fits with the nature of your relationship with the person.
  • Self-consciousness
    The person with Alzheimer's may find it embarrassing to be undressed in your presence. One way to overcome this is to uncover only the part of their body that you are washing at the time, leaving the rest covered.
  • Isolation
    Some people may become anxious if they are left on their own and may want you to stay with them while they are washing

Talk to the person about how you feel about bathing them. Ask how they feel and how they would prefer you to do things. Try to find ways to help them remain independent in as many ways as possible, and offer support as unobtrusively as you can. Here are some practical tips.

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Encouraging independence

We all have our own routines for personal care - particularly when we get up in the morning. Try to encourage the person with Alzheimer's to continue with these routines for as long as possible. Take the time to think about which routines work best, as well as the person's preferences, so that you can help them carry on with their normal routine. Where do they like to get undressed? Do they prefer a bath or a shower? What toiletries are they used to? What dental care do they need?

If the person seems confused, it can help if you break the process down into small stages. When someone's nerve pathways are damaged, it becomes harder for them to process a lot of information at once.

  • Offer tactful reminders about which step comes next in their process of personal hygiene.
  • Offer practical help - for example, by handing the person the soap at the point when they would normally wash, or holding out a towel when it's time for them to dry themselves.

Safety precautions

There are some very practical considerations when someone with Alzheimer's is using the bathroom:

  • Check that the floor is not slippery.
  • Make sure that the room is warm before the person undresses. Older people are more sensitive to heat and cold than younger people.
  • Check that the water temperature is not too hot or too cold. You can buy a heat sensor that sticks to the side of the bath and changes color if the bath water is too hot, to prevent scalding.
  • You may need to remove locks from the bathroom door, or replace them with locks that can be opened from outside. Someone with Alzheimer's may lock themselves in and panic, or they may go into the bathroom and then forget why they went in.
  • Don't forget your own safety. If you have to help the person get into the bath, make sure you don't strain your back. If this is becoming a problem, talk to an occupational therapist about equipment to help you (see Aids and equipment, below).

Aids and Equipment

If washing is becoming difficult, you might find it useful to install some equipment such as bars and handrails. This equipment can help the person feel more independent and more in control of their situation, and can make washing and bathing easier. Information about this sort of equipment is available from an occupational therapist, who you can contact through your GP or district nurse. The service is free of charge. An occupational therapist may suggest some of the following pieces of equipment:

  • Grab rails to help with getting in and out of the bath
  • Handrails, attached to the wall near the shower, washbasin or toilet
  • Non-slip mats in the bath or shower
  • Seats to go in the bath or shower
  • Raised toilet seats.

Washing hair and Alzheimer's

Most people like having their hair washed regularly. Many people enjoy the feeling of having their hair washed, and feel better when it is done. However, some people don't enjoy it at all. If this is the case, you need to balance the advantages of clean hair against the disadvantages of creating tension between you and the person you are caring for.

  • If you are washing the person's hair yourself, a hand-held shower may work best.
  • If the person prefers to have their hair washed by a hairdresser, either arrange regular trips to the hairdresser, or you may be able to find a hairdresser who will come to the house.

Using the toilet and Alzheimer's

Try to make sure that the person wipes themselves properly after using the toilet, or help them to do so if this feels appropriate. This will depend on your relationship.

  • Wiping from front to back, rather than back to front, helps to prevent infection.
  • Moist toilet tissues, obtainable from any chemist, are useful if the person has had an accident.

When someone is reluctant to wash and Alzheimer's

If the person with Alzheimer's doesn't want to wash, try to remain calm and find a way to cope that does not involve confrontation. It's not the end of the world if they don't shower every day. Everyone has different standards of hygiene; you may prefer to bathe every day, but they might have different ideas about cleanliness. Think about what their routine was like before they had Alzheimer's, and encourage them to maintain that level of cleanliness.

    • Try giving gentle reminders about using the toilet or washing.
    • Think about the timing of your request, or the way you phrase it. A person may adamantly refuse to wash when you suggest they should, but may decide to wash themselves later in the day. This doesn't necessarily mean that they are being difficult - it may relate to the damage that has been caused to the nerve pathways in the brain.
    • You may find it easier to reason with the person that they should wash if they are going out, or if they are expecting visitors.
    • If bathing or showering causes distress, a strip wash may be sufficient.
    • If the person is reluctant to change their clothing, try removing dirty clothes and substituting clean ones at bedtime, or after a bath. This can help prevent arguments.

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The bottom line

Washing is a matter of personal choice. However, washing is not just about smelling fresh and looking well-kempt. It also helps prevent ill health. Not washing enough can lead to infections and skin complaints. If the person you are caring for doesn't choose to wash as often as you would wash yourself, that's not necessarily something to worry about. But there are some minimum requirements where you will need to put your foot down.

  • Make sure the person washes their hands before eating or handling food and after using the toilet.
  • Bottoms and genitals should be washed every day to prevent infection.
  • Faces should be washed every day to keep the skin clear.
  • The person should bathe or shower at least twice a week.
  • Teeth need to be cleaned twice a day to prevent cavities

Helping someone wash: useful tips

  • Try to make the experience as pleasant and relaxed as possible. Nice-smelling bubble bath or relaxing music can make wash time feel like a treat rather than a chore.
  • Be sensitive to the person's preferences, and try to work out which approaches are most likely to be effective.
  • Use the time to have a chat, as well as to explain what you are doing.
  • If the person finds the experience difficult, try to imagine how you would feel in their situation.
  • Making a joke about any muddles may help you both feel better.
  • Try to be flexible. You may find that different approaches work at different times, depending on the person's mood and the severity of their Alzheimer's.
  • Being organized can help reduce stress. Try to make sure you have everything you need ready to hand before you start.
  • While the person is undressed, check for any red or sore areas. If you notice anything you're concerned about, mention it to your district nurse or GP.
  • Make sure the person is thoroughly dried, especially in the skin folds. This will prevent the skin from becoming chafed.


  • Alzheimer's Society - UK, Carers' Advice Sheet 504, Nov. 2005.

next: Dressing the Alzheimer's Patien

APA Reference
Staff, H. (2008, November 23). Bathing the Alzheimer's Patient, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, January 27 from

Last Updated: July 23, 2014

Aromatherapy for Mental Health Conditions

What is Aromatherapy and how does it work? And is aromotherapy effective for treatment of anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions?

Before engaging in any complementary medical technique, you should be aware that many of these techniques have not been evaluated in scientific studies. Often, only limited information is available about their safety and effectiveness. Each state and each discipline has its own rules about whether practitioners are required to be professionally licensed. If you plan to visit a practitioner, it is recommended that you choose one who is licensed by a recognized national organization and who abides by the organization's standards. It is always best to speak with your primary health care provider before starting any new therapeutic technique.


For thousands of years, oils from plants have been used to lubricate the skin, purify air and repel insects. Essential oils were used in ancient Egypt for bathing and massage and in ancient Greece and Rome for treating infections. The origin of modern aromatherapy is often traced to the French chemist Rene-Maurice Gattefosse, who is said to have poured lavender oil onto his hand after accidentally burning himself. He believed that the pain, redness and skin damage healed more quickly than expected, and he began to study the effects of oils on the body.

Essential oils are extracted from a plant's flowers, leaves, needles, branches, bark, berries, seeds, fruits, rind or roots. These oils are often mixed with a milder "carrier" oil (usually a vegetable oil) or are weakened (diluted) in alcohol. Essential oils are used in many different ways, including directly on the skin, as a part of massage, in bathwater, via steam inhalation or in mouthwashes.


Aromatherapy sessions often begin with an interview, after which the therapist selects a blend of oils that he or she feels is appropriate for the client. Appointments may last up to 90 minutes. Clients may be asked not to shower for several hours afterwards, to allow more time for oils to sink into the skin. Manmade compounds are usually not used. Commonly sold products such as scented candles, pomanders or potpourri are usually not as strong as the oils typically used by aromatherapists.

There is no required training or licensing for aromatherapists in the United States. Many types of practitioners, including massage therapists, chiropractors and nurses, offer aromatherapy.


Different theories have been proposed to explain the reported effects of aromatherapy, although none has been proven scientifically. Some explanations include:

  • Stimulation of pleasure centers of the brain by nerves in the nose that sense smell
  • Direct effects on hormones or enzymes in the blood
  • Stimulation of the adrenal glands


Scientists have studied aromatherapy for the following health problems:

Lavender aromatherapy is traditionally believed to be relaxing. Several small studies report that it helps relieve anxiety. Overall, the scientific evidence suggests a small benefit. It is possible that aromatherapy may have effects on mood, cognitive performance and relaxation in adults. Larger, well-designed studies are needed to confirm the available data.

Agitation in patients with dementia
There is preliminary evidence that aromatherapy using essential oil of lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) can effectively reduce agitation in people with severe dementia when applied to the face and arms twice daily. Other research reports that steam inhalation of lavender aromatherapy may have similar effects. However, other research reports no benefits of aromatherapy using lemon balm, Lavender officinalis, sweet orange (Citrus aurantium), or tea tree oil (Malaleuca alternifolia). Overall, the evidence does suggest potential benefits. There is also preliminary research suggesting that aromatherapy used with massage may help to calm people with dementia who are agitated. However, it is not clear if this approach is any better than massage used alone. Additional research is necessary before strong recommendations can be made.

Poor sleep, sedation
Lavender and chamomile are popularly regarded as effective sleep aids. Research is too early to form a clear conclusion.

Quality of life in patients with cancer or life-threatening illnesses
Aromatherapy and aromatherapy massage are often used in people with severe illnesses to improve quality of life. In one randomized controlled trial, sleep scores improved, but pain control and anxiety scores did not. There is not enough scientific evidence at this time to form a firm conclusion about effectiveness.

Alopecia areata
Alopecia areata is a condition in which the body's immune system attacks hair follicles, causing hair loss. A well-designed study using a mixture of oils (cedarwood, lavender, rosemary and thyme in carrier oils of grapeseed and jojoba) reported improvements in patients compared with patients using carrier oils alone. More research is needed before a clear conclusion can be reached.

Congestion, respiratory tract infection
Eucalyptus oil and a component of eucalyptus called eucalyptol are included in many over-the-counter vapors and other treatments. One small study showed a positive effect of aromatics on mucous clearance in patients with chronic airway obstruction. However, there is not enough scientific information to form a clear conclusion.

Itching in dialysis patients
It is not clear if aromatherapy reduces itchiness in patients with kidney disease on dialysis.

Anxiety or stress in intensive care unit patients
It is not clear if aromatherapy reduces stress levels in patients in intensive care units. Early research suggests that it may not be helpful.

Labor pain
A small trial of aromatherapy for pain management in women during labor gave unclear results. More research is needed to make a conclusion.

Aromatherapy may play a role in reducing postoperative nausea. However, the evidence is not clear, and more research is needed before a clear recommendation can be made.

It has been suggested that aromatherapy massage may reduce abdominal obesity or appetite. Additional evidence is necessary before a clear conclusion can be reached.

Preliminary research in this area is inconclusive.

Unproven Uses

Aromatherapy has been suggested for many other uses, based on tradition or on scientific theories. However, these uses have not been thoroughly studied in humans, and there is limited scientific evidence about safety or effectiveness. Some of these suggested uses are for conditions that are potentially life-threatening. Consult with a health care provider before using aromatherapy for any use.

Advanced cancer
Alzheimer's disease
Anxiety in patients with malignant brain tumors
Autonomic dysfunction
Back pain
Bereavement and grief
Bladder infection
Breast cancer
Chronic bronchitis (prevention and treatment)
Chronic pain
Common cold
Coping skills
Digestive disorders
Enhanced recovery from surgery or illness
Exercise recovery
Guillain-Barré syndrome (symptom relief)
High blood pressure
Hormonal and endocrine disorders
Immune system stimulant
Improved circulation
Inflammatory bowel disease
Insect bites
Intravenous line infection
Irregular heartbeat
Joint pain
Learning disabilities
Liver disorders
Loss of appetite
Maternal comfort during labor
Memory enhancement
Menstrual cramps
Motion sickness
Muscle pain
Nerve pain
Panic attacks
Parkinson's disease
Postpartum discomfort
Promoting sleep in critically ill patients
Psychosomatic illness
Reduced swelling after injuries
Respiratory tract infections (prevention)
Rheumatic disorders
Seizure disorder
Sexually transmitted diseases
Sickle cell disease
Skin infections
Skin rash in bone marrow transplant patients (engraftment syndrome rash)
Smoking withdrawal symptoms
Sprains and strains
Stimulation of digestion
Stomach complaints
Study performance (math tasks)
Test performance
Wound healing
Yeast infections


Potential Dangers

Essential oils may be toxic if taken by mouth and should not be swallowed.

Many types of essential oils can cause skin rash or irritation on direct contact, and they should be diluted with a base oil before use. Some oils, such as peppermint and eucalyptus oils, may burn the skin if applied at full strength. Skin sensitivity to light may occur, particularly with oil of bergamot (extracted from the rind of the bergamot orange) or a chemical in oil of bergamot called 5-methoxypsoralen. Vapors released during aromatherapy can irritate the eyes. Use near children's faces is discouraged.

Allergy may occur with use of essential oils; it may be caused by contamination or by constituents of the herbs from which the oil is derived. Individuals who have difficulty breathing with the use of aromatherapy should seek medical attention before attempting aromatherapy again.

There are published reports of agitation, drowsiness, nausea and headache with the use of aromatherapy. Some oils are thought to have toxic effects on the brain, liver and kidney or to increase the risk of cancer with long-term use. Aromatherapies that may increase sedation or drowsiness, such as lavender or chamomile, may enhance the effects of drugs, herbs or supplements that also cause fatigue or sedation. Use caution if you are driving or operating heavy machinery.

Sage, rosemary and juniper oils may cause the uterus to contract when taken in large amounts, and their use is discouraged during pregnancy.

Infants and young children may be especially sensitive to the effects and side effects of essential oils. Peppermint oil is not recommended in children younger than 30 months. Consult a health care provider before using aromatherapy in children.


Aromatherapy has been suggested for many health conditions. Several small studies suggest that lavender aromatherapy may help relieve anxiety. There is no conclusive scientific evidence for the effectiveness of any other use or type of aromatherapy. Essential oils may be toxic if taken by mouth and should not be swallowed. Several other adverse effects have been reported, most commonly skin allergy or irritation after direct contact. Some types of aromatherapy may be dangerous in children and in pregnant women. Do not rely on aromatherapy alone to treat potentially dangerous medical conditions. Speak with your health care provider if you are considering the use of aromatherapy.

The information in this monograph was prepared by the professional staff at Natural Standard, based on thorough systematic review of scientific evidence. The material was reviewed by the Faculty of the Harvard Medical School with final editing approved by Natural Standard.


  1. Natural Standard: An organization that produces scientifically based reviews of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) topics
  2. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM): A division of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services dedicated to research

Selected Scientific Studies: Aromatherapy

Natural Standard reviewed more than 640 articles to prepare the professional monograph from which this version was created.

Some of the more recent studies are listed below:

    1. Anderson LA, Gross JB. Aromatherapy with peppermint, isopropyl alcohol, or placebo is equally effective in relieving postoperative nausea. J Perianesth Nurs 2004;19(1):29-35.
    2. Anderson C, Lis-Balchin M, Kirk-Smith M. Evaluation of massage with essential oils on childhood atopic eczema. Phytother Res 2000;14(6):452-456.


  1. Ballard CG, O'Brien JT, Reichelt K, et al. Aromatherapy as a safe and effective treatment for the management of agitation in severe dementia: the results of a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial with Melissa. J Clin Psych 2002;63(7):553-558.
  2. Buckle J. Aromatherapy for health professionals. Beginnings 2003;Jan-Feb, 23(1):40-41.
  3. Bureau JP, Ginouves P, Guilbaud J, et al. Essential oils and low-intensity electromagnetic pulses in the treatment of androgen-dependent alopecia. Adv Ther 2003;20(4):220-229.
  4. Burnett KM, Solterbeck LA, Strapp CM. Scent and mood state following an anxiety-provoking task. Psychol Rep 2004;95(2):707-722.
  5. Burns A, Byrne J, Ballard C. Sensory stimulation in dementia (editorial). Br Med J 2002;325:1312-1313.
  6. Calvert I. Ginger: an essential oil for shortening labour? Pract Midwife 2005;8(1):30-34.
  7. Christen L, Christen S, Waldmeier V, et al. [Nursing without and with essential oils: a controlled study of patients in an acute rheumatologic department]. Pflege 2003;16(4):193-201.
  8. Connell FEA, Tan G, Gupta I, et al. Can aromatherapy promote sleep in elderly hospitalized patients? J Canadian Ger Soc 2001;4(4):191-195.
  9. Cooke B, Ernst E. Aromatherapy: a systematic review. Br J Gen Pract 2000;50(455):493-496.
  10. Edge J. A pilot study addressing the effect of aromatherapy massage on mood, anxiety and relaxation in adult mental health. Complement Ther Nurs Midwifery 2003;May, 9(2):90-97.
  11. Fellowes D, Barnes K, Wilkinson S. Aromatherapy and massage for symptom relief in patients with cancer. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2004;CD002287.
  12. Gedney JJ, Glover TL, Fillingim RB. Sensory and affective pain discrimination after inhalation of essential oils. Psychosom Med 2004;66(4):599-606.
  13. Graham PH, Browne L, Cox H, Graham J. Inhalation aromatherapy during radiotherapy: results of a placebo-controlled double-blind randomized trial. J Clin Oncol 2003;Jun 12, 21(12):2372-2376.
  14. Gray SG, Clair AA. Influence of aromatherapy on medication administration to residential-care residents with dementia and behavioral challenges. Amer J Alzheimer's Disease Dementias 2002;17(3):169-174.
  15. Han SH, Yang BS, Kim HJ. [Effectiveness of aromatherapy massage on abdominal obesity among middle aged women]. Taehan Kanho Hakhoe Chi 2003;33(6):839-846.
  16. Hasani A, Pavia D, Toms N, et al. Effect of aromatics on lung mucociliary clearance in patients with chronic airways obstruction. J Altern Complement Med 2003;Apr, 9(2):243-249.
  17. Holmes C, Hopkins V, Hensford C, et al. Lavender oil as a treatment for agitated behaviour in severe dementia: a placebo controlled study. Int J Geriatr Psychiatry 2002;17(4):305-308.
  18. Itai T, Amayasu H, Kuribayashi M, et al. Psychological effects of aromatherapy on chronic hemodialysis patients. Psychiatry Clin Neurosci 2000;54(4):393-397.
  19. Kaddu S, Kerl H, Wolf P. Accidental bullous phototoxic reactions to bergamot aromatherapy oil. J Am Acad Dermatol 2001;45(3):458-461.
  20. Kim MA, Sakong JK, Kim EJ, et al. [Effect of aromatherapy massage for the relief of constipation in the elderly]. Taehan Kanho Hakhoe Chi 2005;35(1):56-64.
  21. Lengacher CA, Bennett MP, Kipp KE, et al. Design and testing of the use of a complementary and alternative therapies survey in women with breast cancer. Oncol Nurs Forum 2003;Sep-Oct, 30(5):811-821.
  22. Moss M, Cook J, Wesnes K, Duckett P. Aromas of rosemary and lavender essential oils differentially affect cognition and mood in healthy adults. Int J Neurosci 2003;Jan, 113(1):15-38.
  23. Orton-Jay L, Formation of the International Federation of Professional Aromatherapists (IFPA). An interview with Linda Orton-Jay. Complement Ther Nurs Midwifery 2003;Feb, 9(1):35-37.
  24. Resnick B. Putting research into practice: behaviorial and pharmacologic management of dementia. Geriatr Nurs 2003;Jan-Feb, 24(1):58-59.
  25. Richards K, Nagel C, Markie M, et al. Use of complementary and alternative therapies to promote sleep in critically ill patients. Crit Care Nurs Clin North Am 2003;Sep, 15(3):329-340.
  26. Ro YJ, Ha HC, Kim CG, et al. The effects of aromatherapy on pruritis in patients undergoing hemodialysis. Derm Nursing 2002;14(4):231-234, 237-239.
  27. Sgoutas-Emch S, Fox T, Preston M, et al. Stress management: aromatherapy as an alternative. Sci Rev Alternative Med 2001;5(2):90-95.
  28. Smallwood J, Brown R, Coulter F, et al. Aromatherapy and behaviour disturbances in dementia: a randomized controlled trial. Int J Geriatr Psychiatry 2001;16(10):1010-1013.
  29. Smith CA, Collins CT, Cyna AM, Crowther CA. Complimentary and alternative therapies for pain management in labor. Cochran Database Syst Rev 2003;(2):CD003521.
  30. Soden K, Vincent K, Craske S, et al. A randomized controlled trial of aromatherapy massage in a hospice setting. Palliat Med 2004;18(2):87-92.
  31. Taylor J. Sweet smell of success. Nurs Times 2003;Jan 7-13, 99(1):40-41.
  32. Thorgrimsen L, Spector A, Wiles A, et al. Aroma therapy for dementia. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2003;(3):CD003150.
  33. Westcombe AM, Gambles MA, Wilkinson SM, et al. Learning the hard way! Setting up an RCT of aromatherapy massage for patients with advanced cancer. Palliat Med 2003;Jun, 17(4):300-307.
  34. Wilkinson JM, Hipwell M, Ryan T, Cavanagh HM. Bioactivity of Backhousia citriodora: antibacterial and antifungal activity. J Agric Food Chem 2003;Jan 1, 51(1):76-81.
  35. Wiebe E. A randomized trial of aromatherapy to reduce anxiety before abortion. Effective Clin Pract 2000;3(4):166-169.

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APA Reference
Staff, H. (2008, November 23). Aromatherapy for Mental Health Conditions, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, January 27 from

Last Updated: February 8, 2016

Symptoms of Childhood Depression

The symptoms of depression in children can be very different than in adults. Learn about depression in children and how parents can help.

It was long believed that the tumultuous moods of the teenage years were "normal", but we now understand that excessive irritability, moodiness, sleep and appetite change may signal vulnerability to depression. (Pine et al. 1999) Common symptoms of adolescent depression are irritability, hopelessness, an inability to experience pleasure from normally pleasurable life events, changes in sleep and appetite, academic decline, reduced energy, reduced social interactions, somatic symptoms, and suicidal ideation.

And unlike adults, most children deny rather than admit depression. Symptoms of depression vary with the developmental stage of the child.

Sadness and depression in children may be expressed through temper tantrums, boredom, low self-esteem, lack of motivation, and deterioration in school work. Sleep and eating problems may be expressed either way, too much or too little sleep and poor appetite or overeating.

Depressive symptoms may be acute (major depressive disorder), chronic (dysthymic disorder), or in response to a triggering life event (adjustment disorder with depressed mood). Also, normal grief symptoms that continue past two months and lead to impairment at school or home require intervention.

Treatment of Childhood Depression

  • Don't ignore the symptoms of childhood depression. It's very important to seek professional treatment (a child psychologist, child psychiatrist) if you think your child is depressed. The earlier, the better to prevent deterioration in the child's functioning and recurring depressive episodes.
  • For mild depression, psychological therapy alone should do. More serious depression may require antidepressant medication in combination with psychological therapy. While antidepressants have proven effective in children, the FDA has warned parents to be aware of suicidal thoughts and behaviors during antidepressant treatment; especially during the start of antidepressant medication. Parents should work with the mental health professional to observe symptoms and behavior when the child is taking antidepressant medication.

Suggestions for Helping Your Depressed Child

  • Keep a resource folder to organize your child's assessment and treatment records. Include practical information such as appointments, names and numbers, and insurance records. Be proactive in your child's treatment by utilizing simple behavior, mood, and symptom logs (mood charts) to record your child's progress. When you see a helpful article or handout related to your child's disorder, print or cut it out and keep it in your folder.
  • Look for environmental factors that may be related to the child's depression. Address issues of grief and loss, marital discord, alcohol or drug abuse in your family, or your own mental health problems. Other environmental conditions that are related to childhood depression are physical or sexual abuse, changes in primary caregiver, ongoing problems with learning or peer interaction, and disruption of family housing or employment. Seek counseling for yourself and your child when these environmental issues are present in your family life.
  • Build social support systems for your child and your family. Find ways to spend more time with your child; she/he needs your steady presence and support. Encourage their participation in group activities that are led by a caring adult. Some examples might be church groups, child support groups, Scouts, after-school sports and recreation groups. Talk to your child's teacher or school counselor about their condition, and enlist their support to encourage and motivate your child.
  • Help your child understand that depression is not forever. Talk about her/his feelings, and counteract hopeless thoughts and negative beliefs with encouragement and reality-testing. Find ways to build self-esteem and sense of competence to lead the way out of a depressive episode or chronic dysthymic disorder.

Parents should keep in mind though that relapses are common and almost one-half of the children diagnosed with depression are likely to suffer a relapse over a five-year follow-up period. Young people who suffer from depression are also likely to suffer from depression during their adult lives. Therefore, depression could continue or reappear between childhood and adulthood.


  • University of Michigan, "Facts about Depression in Children and Adolescents", Oct. 2007.
  • NIMH
  • Parenting of K-6 Children

APA Reference
Staff, H. (2008, November 23). Symptoms of Childhood Depression, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, January 27 from

Last Updated: August 19, 2019