Today’s culture, combined with psychological issues such as low self esteem, have lead to an increased rate in anorexia and eating disorders in teens. Because they are a complex condition, and affect both the mind and the body, it can be difficult for young people to overcome this disease. Often the physical and emotional toll of anorexia and other eating disorders is far more severe with teens than others. So, because the effects are so negative, and the psychological effects can often lead to increased risk of other dangerous behaviors, including unprotected sex, shoplifting, substance abuse and more, it is important to know how to treat them, and what the treatment options are available to your teen.
First, in order to treat an eating disorder such as anorexia, it has to be noticed. As a parent you would hope that should your child be having such severe emotional and psychological problems that you would notice, however statistics show that many teens have eating disorders in secret for months, or in some cases years before anyone takes notice, or takes a stand. Know what to look for in your teen that might indicate an eating disorder, and do not be afraid to address it if you suspect a problem. Some of the signs of a severe eating disorder include fatigue, seizure, abnormal heartbeat and lost bone density. Of course, these are not symptoms you can see, but they are important to address when you do bring up eating disorders with your teen. As a teen with an eating disorder gets more severe, they often become secretive, isolated, and withdrawn from family and friends. However, it is best to look for the signs that occur before it is so severe, such as decreased appetite, comments about being fat or ugly, a sudden interest in exercise, or the tendency to over-exercise.
Once the problem with anorexia is discovered you want to get professional treatment and help. The most effective treatment plans involve medical, psychological, and social components, in order to address the causes of the problem, the effects of the problem, and to help reassure it does not happen again.
Therapy options include the following:
Individual therapy: this is when a therapist helps someone with anorexia to explore the emotional and psychological compulsions that lead to destructive behaviors like anorexia. The therapist will help the teen figure out what is triggering their compulsion to self starve so that they can design strategies to avoid these triggers in the future.
Group therapy: in many cases problems like anorexia affect social development, especially if it is severe as the sufferer often becomes withdrawn. So, group therapy is a great way to help the teen to reconnect with others, and share stories of success and failure. It allows sufferers of anorexia to learn how to accept themselves in a group, and not compare their body to others’. Of course, not every teen benefits from group therapy, and you would want to watch to make sure that they do not start getting competitive with others in the group over who can be more thin, etc.
Family therapy: if the teen lives at home and has a family, it is a very effective form of therapy to have the people who will see them each day be a part of the recovery process. This is great because it helps the family understand the disease, and offers the patient the support system they need to fully recover.
Once your teen has undergone the various forms of therapy to help them address the causes of the problem in the first place, overcome the health problems that it cause, and prepare themselves with nutrition education, and self esteem to not have it happen again, you can enroll them in further support groups to help. For example, they can attend meetings of Eating Disorders Anonymous and Anorexics and Bulimic Anonymous, which helps them to incorporate the 12-Step philosophy to help ensure continued recovery.