One of the things that teens are particularly conscious about is their physical appearance. As their bodies change due to puberty, they also face greater social pressures, which may lead to certain behaviors harmful to their health and well-being. With this desire to look great, what may start out as normal dieting for teens may go out of hand, which can then develop into an eating disorder.
Anorexia nervosa is one of the most common eating disorders, and it can affect a person’s mind and body. It is then important for parents to understand what goes on in a teen’s mind with anorexia nervosa. It is after all crucial that parents learn the symptoms, so that they can help identify the problem early. With early treatment, you can help prevent serious health-related problems like osteoporosis, renal damage, and heart problems.
If an individual has anorexia, he or she may have a distorted body image. A person can look at the mirror in distaste of his appearance, when in reality he may already be too thin. Persons with anorexia can be so obsessed with their weight that they will restrict food, or they may exercise excessively because they think they are already overweight.
With the obsession to lose weight, some individuals can be skeletally thin, and yet they still continue to starve themselves. And although the disease may be centered on unhealthy eating habits, it is more complex in the sense that it also involves a person’s coping abilities. For individuals struggling with emotional issues, perfectionism, and the need for control, anorexia is an unhealthy way for them to cope.
The physical symptoms that anorexia can cause are extreme weight loss, fatigue, dizziness, brittle nails, hair loss, constipation, dry skin, dehydration, irregular heart rhythms, cold intolerance, and a string of other symptoms, which are caused due to inadequate nutrition
While some symptoms may be noticeable, it is important that you watch out for any sign that can indicate a problem. Keep in mind that people with eating disorders will try to conceal the problem with their families. Some people with anorexia can even successfully hide their problem for years, without their family knowing about it.
It is then important for parents to try to be wary of any sign that may indicate an eating disorder in a teen. To identify a possible problem, here are the common behavioral signs that you may notice in a teen with anorexia:
– skipping meals
– taking on a strict eating ritual
– using the weighing scale too often
– counting calories or weighing of food
– frequent checking on the mirror for one’s appearance
– complaining of being fat
If you notice any of these behaviors in your teen, it may be best to intervene early so that treatment can be started. Teens with eating disorders can be quite defensive, or even angry when confronted about the situation. This can be attributed to the fact that individuals with eating disorders, may find it difficult to admit, even to themselves, that they have a problem.
It is common for a teen to resist, but parents need to be very persistent when offering help because the condition has to be treated. If you know anybody else who had successfully battled an eating disorder, you may try to have him speak with your child. He or she may be a good motivator for your child to agree on seeking help. Parents should never allow a child to battle this out by himself because without help, the condition may only worsen.
Treatment of anorexia is usually through a team approach including physicians, mental health providers, and dietitians. A doctor will focus on treating the physical symptoms brought about by the disease. Mental health providers on the other hand, will focus on the therapies needed to promote effective coping skills, and a healthy concept of self. Family therapy may also be recommended, aimed at resolving conflicts and earning support from loved ones. Another important aspect of the treatment is to ensure that a teen is taking in enough nutrients to meet certain weight goals, in which a dietitian will be monitoring.
There are plenty of factors that can affect our child’s self-concept. Everywhere we go, we are bound to see images of models with perfect figures. And while society and media may not be too helpful, there is much that we can do as parents. Encourage healthy eating habits, and promote an active lifestyle in your family. Set the right example by appreciating yourself regardless of your flaws. Help your kids accept that we are all unique, and with our flaws, we still have the right to feel good about ourselves.