For many parents and friends of an adolescent who is struggling, now days it has became very difficult to know when to take steps to secure professional help. There is unfortunately still a considerable stigma associated with the behavioral and mental health conditions. Even for adults who are ready for help, admitting that there is a problem is an essential first step in the recovery process.
For teenagers and still-developing young adults, whose psyche is still not fully formed, there is often another barrier that they must overcome in this situation – the guilt regarding their eating disorder and asking an adult for help. But studies indicate that early intervention is often essential to long-term eating disorder recovery, especially for adolescents.
When Should Parents Start to Consider Teenage Eating Disorder Treatment?
Even before researching eating disorder treatment centers, the family and friends of a teenager at risk for developing an eating disorder should understand the early warning signs and symptoms of common eating disorders. When the support systems of these individuals understand what they are experiencing mentally and physically, they have a leg up in providing that support more effectively and productively.
Here are some early warning signs of common eating disorders that includes:
- Extraordinary weight loss or weight fluctuations
- Obsession or preoccupations with calories, weight, body shape, and the like
- Refusal to eat certain foods or food groups
- The development of food rituals that may include eating foods in a specific order, excessive chewing, not allowing foods to touch, etc.
- Excessive exercise, often past the point of illness or injury
- Changes in the menstrual cycle
- Social withdrawal, depression, anxiety and panic attacks
- Hiding or hoarding food
- Eating in secret and/or consuming large amounts of food in secret (this applies to both binge eating disorder and most cases of bulimia nervosa
- Dizziness, fainting and sleep problems
When a Suspicion Becomes a Call for Help
If you see some or most of the symptoms listed above, and most certainly if the teenager in question has expressed concerns about their eating behavior or weight, it’s time to seek professional help. At this point, it’s unlikely that the problem will “resolve itself” – eating disorders are complex and pervasive. If thoughts surrounding food, dieting, body weight, exercise and body shape are ruling someone’s life, it’s time to seek out a doctor or, even better, a mental health professional.
The journey towards recovery for everyone, adolescent or adult, begins with admitting there is a problem. Although many people find it difficult to talk about emotional problems or want to keep an eating disorder secret, those barriers to recovery must be overcome. The good news is that, with the help of a therapist or the admissions team at an eating disorder treatment center, these difficult conversations can be manageable.
How Can Parents Talk to Teens About Eating Disorders?
The National Eating Disorders Association recommends that parents and close family take the time to understand the disorder before patiently and compassionately raising the subject. They should be ready to ask questions and also give some answers themselves. The more knowledgeable the individual’s family can become about how the treatment process works, the better. Some introductory questions parents may want to use include:
- When did your thinking and emotions about food, exercise, and weight start to change? What kind of thoughts did you have?
- What kind of new thoughts and behaviors started? What was the point of these behaviors??
- Have you noticed any physical health changes like lack of sleep, digestive problems or dizziness? Any emotional changes like anxiety or depression?
- How are you feeling right now?
- How can I best support you?
Be Caring, Be Careful, Be Compassionate – But Act Sooner Rather Than Being Late
Teenage eating disorder treatment is a long and complex process. However, with the help of professional eating disorder counseling and a reliable support system at home, adolescents can become fully recovered. Take your time and call an eating disorder treatment facility for more information on what kinds of adolescent eating disorder counseling programs that is available in there facility.