Navigating the complicated world of eating disorders
Many kids, particularly teens, are concerned about the how they look and can feel self-conscious about their bodies. This can be especially true when going through puberty, at which time they undergo dramatic physical changes and face new social pressures. Unfortunately that concern can grow into an obsession that can become an eating disorder. Anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa are eating disorders that cause dramatic weight fluctuation, interfere with normal daily life and damage vital body functions.
While most common among girls, eating disorders can affect boys, too. In the United States, one or two out of every one hundred kids will struggle with an eating disorder. Unfortunately many kids and teens successfully hide eating disorders from their families for months or even years.
Although anorexia and bulimia are very similar, people with anorexia are usually very thin and underweight, but those with bulimia may be a normal weight or even overweight. Binge eating disorders, food phobias, and body image disorders are also becoming increasingly common.
People with anorexia or bulimia frequently have an intense fear of gaining weight or of being overweight and frequently think they look bigger than they actually are. Also, certain sports and activities like cheerleading, gymnastics, ballet, ice skating, and wrestling may put some kids or teens at greater risk for eating disorders.
There is also an increased incidence of other problems among kids and teens with eating disorders, such as anxiety disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Sometimes, problems at home can put kids at higher risk of problem eating behaviors. Many kids who develop an eating disorder have low self-esteem and their focus on weight can be an attempt to gain a sense of control at a time when their lives feel more out-of-control.
Often, it is difficult for people to admit they have an eating disorder because there is much shame and guilt that goes along with it. It is important to try and remind them that there is no shame in what they are doing and that it is okay to reach out and ask for help. The earlier the intervention (ideally, before malnutrition or a continual binge-purge cycle starts), the shorter the treatment required.
We have experienced psychologists on staff, who help the individual through Cognitive Behavioral therapy, Family Therapy, and Experiential Techniques that will challenge their eating disorder (thoughts, behaviors and emotions around food) to decrease their anxiety around food and help develop a healthy attitude towards food and body image.