For parents whose teens are battling eating disorders, the word “challenging” can seem rather an understatement. An eating disorder is a psychological condition characterized by persistent and abnormal eating habits, and it is caused by a complex interplay of behavioral, genetic, social, and environmental factors. The condition ultimately produces a detrimental effect on a person’s overall physical and emotional health and their ability to function properly especially in important areas of their life.
An eating disorder, more often than not, can serve partly as a coping mechanism, but it can also be brought on by body dissatisfaction. Either way, the condition can be especially hard to overcome.
Nonetheless, there are things you can do to protect your child from developing an eating disorder or, if they’re already living with it, help them feel better about themself, develop a healthy relationship with food, and ultimately reverse their condition. Here are a few tips to help you get started.
Be well informed.
Educating yourself about eating disorders can help you both take an intelligent and level-headed approach to the problem when it occurs and become a supportive force in your child’s recovery.Research the different types of eating disorders and their symptoms. This way, you know exactly what to look out for. The following are the most common types of eating disorders:
- Anorexia nervosa – People struggling with anorexia are fixated on controlling their weight and figure. To prevent weight gain or keep on losing weight, they severely restrict their calorie intake.Common signs and symptoms of anorexia nervosa include frequently skipping meals or refusing to eat, making excuses for not eating, spitting food out after chewing, social withdrawal, and irritability.
- Bulimia nervosa – People with bulimia nervosa go through episodes of binge eating and then take drastic action to avoid weight gain.Signs that your teen has bulimia include forcing themself to vomit or exercising too much to keep themself from gaining weight after bingeing, using diuretics or laxatives even when unnecessary, and fasting or restricting calories in between binges
- Binge-eating disorder (BED) – Most people with binge-eating disorder have little to no control over their appetite.Behavioral and emotional signs and symptoms include eating large amounts of food in a short timeframe, eating despite being full and to the point of feeling very uncomfortable, sneaking food, and frequently eating alone.
Monitor your child’s overall health.
Adolescents with bulimia and anorexia nervosa are highly susceptible to malnutrition, electrolyte imbalances, tooth decay, and potentially life-threatening health problems like kidney and liver failure, while those with binge-eating disorder have an increased risk of developing chronic health conditions, such as diabetes and hypertension.
Have your teen see their pediatrician for routine examinations, so that their weight and overall health will be closely monitored and you can have them properly diagnosed, if they are already showing symptoms of an eating disorder.
Once a diagnosis is confirmed, your child’s pediatrician will provide your child with nutritional guidance and discuss all the other approaches used for addressing the particular eating disorder.
Win your teen’s heart.
Find a good time to speak to your child and do it in a loving, compassionate, and nonconfrontational way. Avoid expression that could imply anger, disappointment, or sadness, which could only make your child feel ashamed, judged, and/or guilty that they have let you down.
When you’ve finally captured your teen’s interest, take this as an opportunity to discuss and dispel what they have learned from the media. Social media, TV programs, and magazines can send false messages about body image and what is socially acceptable.
Encourage self-esteem in your teen by focusing on their positive qualities. Above all, develop a relationship that encourages your teen to talk to you, a loved one, or counselor about everything that concerns them. Communication is key and assuring your child that they will never be judged will greatly help them in their recovery.
Teenage Eating Disorder Treatment in Purchase, NY
At BridgeSpan Medicine, our board-certified pediatricians—who specialize in adolescent medical care— take a comprehensive approach to addressing teenage eating disorders. We treat your child as a whole person, and thus, we closely consider all aspects of their life, any of which could have a significant impact on their relationship with food and the way their perceive their body.
Combining emotional and psychological support with nutritional guidance, we will work closely with you and your child to help you achieve your goals. We will provide you with comprehensive resources and teach you strategies to help you establish healthy eating habits for your child—and even for your entire family. On top of that, we offer routine examinations to help you effectively safeguard their health and well-being, enabling them to live a healthy and happy life.
To find out more about our services or to schedule a consultation with one of pediatricians here at BridgeSpan Medicine, call us at (914) 698-5544, or you can also book an appointment online.