Eating disorders can develop when a person becomes obsessed with their body shape, weight, and appearance, and they start to use unhealthy methods to lose weight or prevent weight gain. This can include restricting their food intake, purging food from their bodies, and/or exercising excessively. Eating disorders can cause significant physical and mental health complications, and in some cases they can be fatal.
If you believe that your teenager may have an eating disorder, there are several ways in which you can support them to increase the likelihood that they make a full recovery and lead a happy, healthy life.
What causes eating disorders in teenagers?
While most anorexia sufferers are young females with early signs of the condition emerging at the age of 16-17, eating disorders can be brought on by several factors and can affect anyone of any age or gender. However, some teenagers may be vulnerable than others if they have an existing mental health issue like anxiety or depression, a close family member who exhibits disordered eating, or have experienced bullying, trauma, or abuse. There is a lot of societal and media pressure on girls and women to be thin and fit a specific body type. If they take part in a hobby or sport where being slim is viewed as important (e.g., dancing or athletics) this may also be a contributing factor.
Speak to them
Your first step is to offer your child the opportunity to talk to you about anything that is upsetting them. They may decline the offer, but you can still encourage them to speak to another adult they trust. The important thing is that they know you are available to listen.
Find professional help
Eating disorders require professional treatment, so if you have concerns about your child, it is important to find it as soon as possible. The sooner they get the help they need, the quicker their recovery is likely to be. Your first port of call is your family doctor who will be able to provide a referral to a specialist center such as edentreatment.com for assessment and treatment.
Do not judge or criticize their behavior
From the outside, eating disorders can be confusing and frustrating, and this is especially true when our child, who we love and believe is beautiful inside and out, is struggling to see their own beauty. However, it is important not to minimize their issues or criticize their behavior. Let them know that their feelings are important to you.
Learn more about eating disorders
Eating disorders are complicated and can be confusing, so make it your business to find out what you can about their diagnosis as well as their personal triggers, concerns, and behaviors. This will put you in a better position to provide support and show your child that you are there for them.
Stop talking about diets, body shape, or weight
For many people, talking about the foods we eat, weight loss or gain, body shape, and diets is everyday trivial, conversation, but for children and adults with eating disorders this kind of talk can be distressing and triggering.
Eating disorders are not cured overnight, and your child will likely fall back into old eating habits on their road to recovery. The best thing you can do for them is remain positive and patient, reassuring them that they are on the right path and you are there for them.