Eating Disorders commonly called ED are a disease plaguing our modern world. The increase in individuals affected and reporting ED has become an epidemic unlike any other brain disorder. A couple of factors come together to form the chaos of an Eating Disorder. A biological predisposition has been linked to Eating Disorders as well as environmental influences such as trauma, family dynamics and comparison to a specific body type. The combination of inside and outside dynamics gives this Eating Disorder phenomenon a grip on Modern America and possibly within your household.
Many of my adult client’s eating disorders in began as early as nine years old. The seeds of Eating Disorders usually incubate in childhood and adolescence. Many of the eating struggles are intuitively cloaked in secrecy. Some children do not understand what is happening when ED arrives. Children are not able to communicate to parents about ED’s characteristics at the on-set. Other children start the deception of distorted eating because they understand ED needs to be kept a secret. Much of the ED behavior can be concealed. It is a secret way to control a world out of their control. The behavior of secret binging, restricting and purging food makes it hard for parents to detect, especially when a child knows to hide it. The hidden ED makes it hard for parents to seek the help a child needs.
To understand ED better, look beyond the food. It is never about the food. Eating Disorders are a result of worthless feelings, the need to fit in, the search for attention or love, control and sometimes perfectionism. The distorted self message a person has with ED is one of self loathing and punishment. As the Eating Disorder begins a daily pattern, shame and guilt follow. The Eating Disorder person knows their behavior is wrong. Yet, under the spell of their compulsion, they cannot stop on their own.
If the Eating Disorder child can receive intervention in the beginning stages, a child can gain skills to create a balanced life and learn food intake appropriately. Does your child have the seedlings of an Eating Disorder? What should you look for?
First look at your family history. Eating Disorders usually have a hereditary connection. Do other immediate family members have Eating Disorders, mental disorders, alcohol, drug abuse and/or addiction? Some learning disorders are also related, such as Attention Deficit with Hyperactivity.
Does your son or daughter comment on their body in a self loathing way? Pay attention to what your child says about their body. Is their self-image distorted? The reality of their body image would not match their dialogue. Comments such as, “I am so fat” or “My body is disgusting” are true feelings of the child with an Eating Disorder.
Has your child dropped or gained a significant amount of weight in a short time without a medical explanation?
Does your child sneak food? Are you finding mysterious amounts of food vanishing from your kitchen refrigerator or pantry? Do you find wrappers hidden under the bed or in the back of a closet or drawer?
In older children, such as teenagers, do you suspect the purging of a meal in a bathroom, bedroom or outside the house 15 to 30 minutes after eating?
When you ask, “When did you last eat?” your child remembers precisely, but the date is past a day or more?
Does your child tell how hungry they are and then pushes food around in their plate at mealtime?
When you and your family dine out, does your child read the menu out loud as if it were the most fascinating book then order a single and small low calorie item?
Does a prevalent ritual around food only unique to your child exist?
If your child has any or several of the above behaviors you may want to start a discussion about what they are feeling inside. Listen carefully to their descriptions of body image and feelings about food. If the discussion leads to discoveries seemingly distorted in how your child perceives himself/herself, combined with restricting food in take, purging or binging, you might want to seek professional help.
Eating Disorders are unique in nature. Many recent discoveries and therapies are in place to help children and adults with this overwhelming disease. Therapy for children and adults help them learn skills to cope with the real stresses that plague the individual. Children in therapy for ED learn how to deal with their emotions rather than use food to substitute or numb the pain of worthlessness. Fortunately, there are support groups for families whose child has an eating disorder. The family support groups use education and therapy to help give the child what he/she needs. It also provides a place for the family to see there is hope for recovery from ED. A web search on Eating Disorder Therapy displays lists of treatment programs and also lists professionals in your area. Your insurance company is also a resource for listings of therapists specializing in Eating Disorders within your zip code.
Another source is people in your community. Opening up a discussion about Eating Disorders in a group, most any group of people, will lead you to what other families have dealt with in their Eating Disorder experiences. How and where they sought support is good information to get from the open discussion.
A discussion about Eating Disorders is a good topic to bring out in the open with your family. Studies reveal Eating Disorders affect one out of every four females and one out of every ten males in America. ED affects every family member if one person in the family has an eating disorder. If your family can avoid the painful journey of an Eating Disorder recovery, before it is fully developed, you will provide a great assist to your loved one. Early intervention to rid you house of ED is a gift to a child who uses food negatively when dealing with life’s stressors.
By Kim DiRé, LPC, Med, SEP Therapist at Healthy Futures 8065 N. 85th Way Scottsdale, AZ 85258 www.HealthyFuturesAZ.com (480) 451-8500 Kim DiRé specializes in Family Therapy, Eating Disorders, Childhood Obesity and Trauma Healing