Posts Tagged ‘Teenagers’

The How-To Guide for Starting your Child in Eating Disorder Treatment

Mom and daughter on cliff

When your child struggles with an eating disorder, it can be a time of fear, frustration, heartache, and confusion. From navigating treatment options to learning how to support your child’s recovery, it can be a complex and challenging time. The Emily Program knows this. Since 1993, we have worked with families and friends to help them support loved ones suffering from eating disorders. 

What is Eating Disorder Treatment?

Eating disorder treatment is specialized care that addresses all facets underlying an individual’s eating disorder along with their current behaviors. Eating disorders are treated most effectively at a specialty treatment center that provides multidisciplinary support. At The Emily Program, intensive care involves a medical professional, therapist, and dietitian. These professionals comprise an individual’s eating disorder treatment team, ensuring that their eating disorder is holistically addressed and that recovery begins with a solid foundation. At The Emily Program, treatment teams provide multidisciplinary, integrative support for individuals of all identities struggling with food and body issues. Treatment may look different for every client and can vary based on the level of care recommended for the individual.

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Why do we Compare Ourselves to Others?

Boy looking at reflection

Teacher and inspirational speaker Iyanla Vanzant once said, “Comparison is an act of violence against the self.” If that’s true, why do we do it?

Comparison is in our Human Nature

In 1954, social psychologist Leon Festinger coined the term social comparison theory. At the core of his theory was the thought that people compare themselves to others so that they can learn about themselves or learn how to act in a socially acceptable way. Comparison, in some circumstances, can keep us safe or be a source of motivation.

For example, imagine an individual who enters a new culture. This person does not speak the language or understand the traditions. In order to find food, fit in, or become a part of the community, the individual may compare others’ behaviors with their own to determine whether they are doing what is necessary to adapt successfully to their new environment.  In this example, comparison helps an individual survive.

The social comparison theory also states that humans compare themselves to others to get an accurate gauge on their abilities, to process situations, and to understand themselves. If a high school student wants to get into Harvard, they will likely compare their grades, test scores, and extracurricular activities to those of students who were accepted into the university in the past. These comparisons arm the student with knowledge of how to get into the university and may assist the student in making smart choices in high school. Additionally, if the student finds out that they do not stack up to admitted students’ academic achievements, it could help them to set a realistic expectation and to avoid future disappointment.

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How do Eating Disorders Present in Males?

Doctor writing on clipboard

As a field, we are beginning to understand that males are at a high-risk for eating disorders and that it is crucial to understand how males present with eating disorders and how we can treat them. Realizing that men have eating disorders is extraordinarily important. Eating disorders are serious and potentially life-threatening and unfortunately, they are often overlooked and trivialized.

The reality of the eating disorder world is that the diagnoses of eating disorders have historically been based on women. Studies to define what eating disorders are have been done primarily with women. The criteria used to describe eating disorders has been normed to women. The professional field is primarily women and treatment is often designed with a gender bias.  However, we are very aware that men can get eating disorders and that more men are presenting with symptoms and entering treatment. As a result, we have a lot of work to do to truly understand how males present with eating disorders.

To give an example of how eating disorder treatment is normed to women, we can look at current eating disorder screening tests. Typically, there are statements such as these where a client can answer yes or no.

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How Involved Should I be in my Teen Child’s Treatment?

Woman on computer

When your child is struggling with an eating disorder, it affects everyone in the family. Eating disorder symptoms can be confusing and elicit feelings of frustration, fear, and sadness. It’s difficult to know how to help, especially when you aren’t quite sure what’s going on.

Eating Disorders in Teens

Eating disorders are complex illnesses rooted in biology, psychology, culture, and more. These disorders often present when individuals are in their teens, so it’s essential to keep an eye out for eating disorder symptoms in children and young adults. Warnings signs to watch for include:

  • Dramatic weight changes and/or the inability to meet growth milestones
  • Eating less, eating in secret, or hiding food
  • Frequent and negative talk about food, weight, or body image
  • Excessive exercise to “offset” food consumption
  • Bingeing, purging, or the abuse of laxatives
  • Denial of disordered eating despite the concern of those around them

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