Society is being bombarded with conflicting messages. Young people are told they need to be healthy at the same time they’re told they’ll be more valuable if they look a certain way. The pressure is immense. A healthy desire to take care of their bodies can warp into an unmanageable problem.
When you think about eating disorders, you might imagine an impossibly thin model subsisting on air and cigarettes. The reality is a lot more complicated.
Eating Disorder Risk Factors
You are your child’s biggest advocate. However, sometimes their health issues can creep up on you. When your kids are little, you’re in complete control of their lives. You dress them, bathe them, feed them.
Everything changes when they become young adults. Suddenly, your kids are running their own lives and treating your involvement like it’s an interference. This can make it very hard to notice if your child develops a mental health problem.
Eating disorders are complicated. Researchers can’t say who will fall ill, but they do have a pretty clear idea of who’s at risk. Signs to watch out for include:
- Chronic Illness
- An immediate family member has been diagnosed with an eating disorder
When to be Concerned
The sooner you spot the problem, the easier it will be to treat. An eating disorder can ravage your child’s body. Early detection might be the key to saving their life.
The disorder often starts gradually. Subtle signs start to pile up. Your child might start obsessing about their weight or appearance. Or they might develop strange habits regarding meal times.
Is your child abnormally preoccupied with getting a stomach ache? Or has your picky eater become even more particular lately?
Once a young person is in the throes of the disorder, they’ll start to show physical symptoms. These range from weight loss to digestive issues. Puberty might be delayed in children who are very young. As a parent, you’ll notice when your child’s body changes. However, you might not attribute it to the right cause.
It doesn’t matter if you’re searching for eating disorder treatment in Tennessee, in Florida, in Nevada, your strategy will be the same. You need to find a doctor or clinic capable of helping your child.
As one treatment center notes: “Whether the underlying cause of your eating disorder is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), trauma or attachment disorder – or you have a history of addiction or substance use disorder, it takes courage to make the decision to seek help for your eating disorder.”
Your child might be resistant to treatment at first. There’s a good chance that they won’t admit there’s a problem. Eating disorders are notoriously difficult to manage.
Once you believe there’s a problem, you need to schedule an appointment with your child’s doctor. The worrying set of symptoms associated with eating disorders is also linked to a slew of diseases. You want to rule out a medical issue.
After the visit with your primary care doctor, you have options. Your child needs therapy but there are multiple ways to satisfy this requirement. You can set them up with traditional outpatient appointments where they see a therapist once a week or so. Or you might search online until you find a support group in your area.
Depending on the severity of your child’s condition, an in-patient treatment center is also an option. This will allow them to receive constant, personalized attention.
An eating disorder can take many forms. A child can appear perfectly healthy yet still be suffering. That’s why you need to pay attention to your child’s eating habits. If something is wrong, they probably won’t speak to you about it. You’ll have to play detective.
If you learn that something is wrong, remember to be ruled by compassion rather than anger. It’s okay to be scared or overwhelmed. You might have no experience with eating disorders. Some parents even fall into the trap of minimizing the problem, insisting that their children start eating normally again without the benefit of therapy or medicine.
It’s difficult but try to remain sympathetic. Nobody wants to be ill. Eating disorders are sometimes confused with petulance. In this view, the sufferer is choosing to adopt maladaptive eating habits and they can change anytime they wat.
However, this is far from the case. An eating disorder is a serious mental health problem that can lead to death. If your child is diagnosed with one, they need help.