Is An Eating Disorder Making Life Unmanageable For You or Your Teen?
- Are you worried about your teen’s excessive dieting, exercise or weight loss?
- Does your teen seem obsessed with fitting in at school or having the perfect body?
- Does your teen claim to be fat even when provided evidence to the contrary?
- Are you worried that your teen’s weight loss is causing irreversible physical and emotional harm and desperately want to find help?
Recently you may have observed disturbing behavior from your teen that has caused you to wonder whether your teen might have an eating disorder. Your teen might be acting withdrawn, perhaps refusing to speak to you or spending hours alone in the bedroom. What’s more, your teen might be struggling with social anxiety and self-esteem issues and seem desperate to fit in at school. Your teen may get easily frustrated when trying on clothes, complain about being fat or even burst into tears in front of the mirror. Other signs of eating disorders can include frequent unfinished meals, refusal to eat certain foods or dishonesty about skipping lunch at school. In addition, you might have noticed increased anxiety or depression, an unhealthy, sickly appearance or an irregular menstrual cycle.
As a parent, you would probably do any thing for your children and desperately want to provide them with the best possible future. However, if an eating disorder is slowly wasting away your teen, you may feel powerless to help.
Adult Eating Disorders
- Are you hiding your calorie restriction, laxative abuse or bingeing and purging from the ones you love?
- Is stress from your relationship, family or career making it difficult to eat?
- Do you loath the person you see in the mirror and desperately want to change, but aren’t sure how to make a positive transformation?
If you’re suffering from an eating disorder, you might be repulsed by the image you see in the mirror and feel constantly bombarded by disgust, self-loathing and shame. In order to control your body size, perhaps you’ve developed a rigid routine that has become a kind of ritualistic habit. You might get up at 4 or 5 in the morning to workout before going to your job. While at the office, you may obsessively scrutinize the day’s food intake or find additional ways to expend calories while working, such as walking up the stairs or going to the gym during your lunch break. Your relationships are probably suffering also. Perhaps you worry that you’re unlovable and desperately cling to your partner out of a longing for reassurance. However, this is only likely to push your partner away.
When you aren’t fasting, you might binge and purge instead. Perhaps you diet all day long but lose your resolve and overeat, causing you to feel guilty and eventually purge. Perhaps you think that reaching a magic number on the scale will offer you the confidence needed to go after the career you want and/or cultivate the healthy, fulfilling relationship you’ve always dreamed of. However, the further you fall down the rabbit hole of your eating disorder, the more your dreams may seem out of reach.
Eating Disorders And The Media
While it’s common to feel shame and guilt about an eating disorder, it’s important to understand that your issues with body image and food may be due to circumstances beyond your control. Eating disorders can be caused by genetics and family history, as well as cultural and societal norms.
In our contemporary world, the media constantly bombards us with images that elevate impossible standards of beauty. We are told that our bodies must look a certain way in order to be valuable and important. Teens are especially vulnerable to this way of thinking, which can cause them to become ashamed of their bodies. Thankfully, with the support and guidance of a professional therapist it’s possible to break free from these negative cultural messages and find true, meaningful self-worth.
Eating disorder counseling can be very effective for individuals suffering from anorexia or bulimia. As a member of the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals and the South Bay Eating Disorder Coalition, I have the tools, skills and expertise necessary to help you or your teen navigate the road to recovery.
In eating disorder counseling, we’ll identify, explore and address the underlying issues that are driving you or your teen to fast, binge or purge. This can include body image issues, problems with self-esteem or even family history and childhood trauma. During treatment we’ll take a collaborative approach, perhaps reaching out to nutritionists or treatment programs in order to tackle the eating disorder from multiple fronts. If depression or anxiety is a problem, we can also work with a psychiatrist, who may be able to prescribe medication to help alleviate symptoms.
If you’re an adult struggling with an eating disorder, counseling can help you to begin feeling better about yourself and adopt new copings skills. You can stop turning to dieting and purging every time you feel stressed, insecure or inadequate. Instead, you can begin developing new ways of cultivating calm and balance in your life and rely upon activities like art, music and deep breathing to promote feelings of wellbeing. You’ll also have the opportunity to use movement therapy to express your frustration and pain and become more aware of your body. The goal is for you to develop a healthier relationship with your body and come to see it as something worth preserving, rather than an object of shame.
For teens, we’ll use many of the same strategies mentioned above. In addition, I use psychoeducation to help teens become better informed about the physical and developmental consequences of excessive dieting and exercise. As your teen’s therapist, I’ll encourage your teen to honor his or her strengths and to look toward innate gifts for a sense of self worth. My hope for all my clients is that they will come to see they are more than just a number on a scale. With the help of eating disorder counseling, you or your teen can restore self-esteem and no longer fear the reflection staring back at you in the mirror.
Perhaps you’re ready to embark on eating disorder counseling, but still have questions or concerns…
I’m afraid I’ll be hospitalized by the therapist.
During our sessions together, you’ll never be forced to do anything you don’t want to do. If I feel that an inpatient treatment program would be helpful to you, I’ll provide referrals. However, the decision will ultimately be yours.
I don’t think eating disorder counseling will work.
If you are motivated and willing to do the work, you can make great achievements through therapy. However, if I’m not the right therapist for you or I use modalities that aren’t in line with your needs, personality or goals, I’d be happy to refer you to another professional. I aim to help you move through your eating disorder safely, whether with me or another therapist.
I’m worried my teen won’t come to therapy or participate in sessions.
During the first session, I’ll interview you and assess your teen’s situation. Even if your teen refuses to fully participate, I’ll still be able to provide you with some insight and can refer you to a treatment center if I feel there is an emergency. I’ll also offer your teen different modalities to work with, such as art and music therapy, which can help him or her feel more comfortable with the therapy process.
Recovery Is Possible
No one should have to suffer through an eating disorder alone. Please call me at (310) 427-1107 for a free 15-minute phone consultation. I’d be happy to answer any questions you my have about eating disorder counseling or my practice. In the meantime, you can read “Dance/Movement Therapy in the Treatment of Eating Disorders” on my blog to find out more about movement therapy.