Eating Disorders on the increase
Over the past decade I have become more and more aware of the increase in obesity but also Anorexia and Bulimia. These psychological disorders have a massive negative impact on the person experiencing the condition and a knock on effect to both parents, siblings and friends. These debilitating conditions threaten mental and physical well being and can push people to emotional limits.
Little is understood about eating disorders and as a mother with a teenage daughter, I sympathize with parents who are often anxious at the thought of their child potentially starving themselves.
Anyone who grew up during the 1970’s will remember the attention given to Karen Carpenter and Lena Zavaroni. Sadly expert help was almost unheard of at this time for Anorexia, and little known about the condition, both these young lives were lost not to Anorexia, but the stress to the body causing fatal consequences to major organs. More than three decades have passed and this subject is still one surrounded by taboo.
Professionals have varying ideas on how to handle eating disorders, one thing remains the same in our minds, if you want to treat these conditions successfully and aim for full recovery, you have to catch them early. To do this you must not ignore some subtle signs at the beginning. These signs can be pushing food around the plate making it appear as if most has been eaten. He or She may start to take charge of the cooking and become obsessive about certain ingredients. They may start exercising much more than usual. You may start to find food uneaten in the bin, especially those bins found in the bathroom or bedroom. Food may be taken and eaten in private away from the dining table.
Teenagers these days almost more than ever seem to want to seek perfection. Obsessive behaviour can have both positive and negative results. It is obsessive behavior that requires some attention from parents to make sure that the obsessions remain healthy ones. It is starting to sound as if it is the parents fault if a child develops an eating disorder, this is not the case but in my experience it is vital to work with the whole family. When a person feels insecure about something usually it will show through behaviour. If a child is having a problem with food and weight, you have to think of the problem not being about “food” or “weight” but merely a symptom of an insecurity. After all, we all know someone who drinks too much, smokes too much or eats to the extreme. We look at grown adults with these problems and do recognize it has more to do with insecurities. Teenagers may not have continual access to alcohol or cigarettes so the brain seeks another control outlet more easily accessible – Food!
The problems are however very complex and the best form of treatment is to help the person come to terms with the real reasons behind their negative behavior. Often this is very hard because like having a phobia, sometimes we cannot explain how the phobia got there!
To function really we need several things, confidence being vital, the more confident we become the less likely we are to experience mental health issues. The more confident, the more positive.
If you are worried that your child may develop an eating disorder, here are a few things to look for and some simple do’s and don’t’s!
From very young try to make meal times pleasurable and at a table with the whole family, this helps form bonds and inclusion for every family member.
Try not to force children to eat food if they are showing signs of being full up. Do not use guilt to make them eat.
In teenage years remember it is normal for a teenage girl to become slightly obsessive about her figure and looks. Always be positive and reinforce their best qualities, encourage them to talk about feelings, sometimes this is very hard as teenagers do want to tell you things you really don’t want to hear but listen to them. They are very sensitive and will always dwell on any negative statements like “I don’t wish to discuss that now” A teen will take that as rejection and may never come back to tell you the whole story! Never tell a teen they look chubby or seem to have put weight on. Teenagers do put down fat cells during puberty it is part of normal development.
Related articles from our experts
- An overview on eating disorders by Mick Green
Mick Green MBACP, FDAP, BA (Hons), PGDip12th July, 2017
- Working therapeutically with obesity
Rochelle Craig MSc, FDAP Accred. / food addiction/compulsive overeating5th July, 2017
- Seeking counselling after sexual violence
Nicola Griffiths BACP Dip in Counselling BA Hons in Social Studies30th June, 2017
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