Don't Understand Eating Disorders"
Teens suffering from anorexia, bulimia and other eating disorders are more likely to suffer from suicidal thoughts, anxiety disorders and substance abuse — but how much they suffer may depend on the type of eating disorder they have.
That’s according to an analysis published online last week in the Archives of General Psychiatry that, with 10,123 adolescents surveyed, is the largest and most comprehensive study of eating disorders in teens in the United States.
About 0.3 percent of the teens surveyed reported suffering from anorexia nervosa, and 0.9 percent from bulimia nervosa. A full 1.6 percent suffered from binge-eating disorder [By Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times].
June, 1991, Jaycee Lee Dugard was kidnapped when she was 11 years
old. She was abducted from a school bus stop and was missing for
over 18 years. During this time JC had two daughters by her abductor.
One question so many of us can't truly understand is "why didn't she simply run away when she had the opportunity?
have a term to help explain this phenomena: the Stockholm Syndrome.
The Stockholm Syndrome is a psychological response that occasionally
occurs in people who have been abducted or held hostage. The abductee
doesn't resist and actually shows signs of loyalty or caring for
the person who took them. The person does so despite the dangerous
and harmful things the abductor has done to them.
of hating the abductor, the abductee befriends their abductor and,
at times, believes that the captor is really protecting them instead
of harming and controlling them. We can use this term, "Stockholm
Syndrome" to also understand how people become "abducted"
by an eating disorder.
Eating disorders take hold of someone's mind and just won't let
go despite the fact the eating disorder is harmful, even potentially
lethal. They rob the person of their physical and emotional health.
Living on minimal calories a day is extremely painful. Malnutrition
can damage parts of the body beyond repair. We ask, "Why don't
they just eat?" "Why don't they just end the eating disorder's
captivity over them?"
There are many complex biological, social, genetic & psychological
reasons. One way to help parents understand to equate it with Stockholm
eating disorder the abductor.
abductor makes the person do many things: starve herself, binge
and purge for hours, take laxatives, or run until exhaustion.
return, the eating disorder offers her a false sense of protection.
It gives her/him the message that if you are thin, life will work
provides her/him with a temporary way to cope with life.
a result, she/he begins to befriend the eating disorder and creates
an identity around it.
will defend it when other people show concern or try to treat
it--exactly like an abused woman defends her abuser.
experience the same cognitive dissonance that people with the
Stockholm Syndrome do: they believe the eating disorder is something
that is trying to help-- not hurt them.
many cry, "I want to stop eating! I can't stop!"
Samuel 22:6: The waves of death swirled about me; the torrents
of destruction overwhelmed me. The cords of the grave coiled around
me; the snares of death confronted me.
Aware: Pro-Eating Disorder Websites Abound
a growing trend online where people are actually promoting eating
disorders. They call it "thinspiration," and experts say
there may be no way to stop them. Most parents can't imagine it:
web sites that promote eating disorders. Termed pro-ana (anorexia)
and pro-mia (bulimia), they proliferate the Internet.
The women of The Veiw discuss these disturbing websites with 2 adolescent women with eating disorders.
websites offer success tips and methods of hiding rapid weight loss
from parents and doctors, and doctored photos or videos of very
thin models and actresses. These diet predators are ging and
sending Twitter updates right to your child's mobile phone. Health
professionals note an increase in the number of cases and have come
to consider the Internet, or "Pro-Eating Disorder" sites,
to be a source of this increase.
Kronberg, MS, RD, CEDRD, a spokesperson for the National Eating
Disorders Association, told Medscape Psychiatry the images and claims
from these pro-eating disorder websites are very dangerous because
the viewers are getting reinforcement for their obsessive, anxious,
and disordered thoughts.
women with low self-esteem, poor body image and a certain genetic
predisposition towards an eating disorder, the messages promoted
on pro-eating disorder web sites can be similar to someone considering
suicide finding a loaded gun on her pillow" (July 2, 2010,
insight and control of your child's online life is important. [Other
concerns are online gambling and pornography.] A variety of tools
exist to find out what sites your kids are frequenting. But nothing
takes the place of an honest and open discussion about concerns
they have about their body image or weight.
Eating Disorders Are Not
Always Obvious to Parents
the demands of a sport, or pressure from peers and family members
feed the disorder. Other times, teens don't know how to react to
the physical changes that come with adolescence and they panic,
desperately trying to stop this natural, healthy weight gain. Other
teens use food and weight-control to get attention or bring stability
to a world that's in chaos (a need for love and attention).
matter how it starts, eating disorders (ED) are dangerous, can be
fatal, and hurt not only the physical body, but emotions and relationships.
If your daughter, son, or friend is struggling with an ED, keep
reading, and find them help. People who develop ED come from every
race, religion and economic background. Whether it's ED, alcohol,
drugs, self-mutilation, all of these issues that plague our society
represent counterfeit solutions for dealing with pain. They are
symptoms of a deeper crisis than what lies on the surface.
teens with ED have the desperate feeling that no one loves or even
notices them. They feel abused and neglected, and food becomes a
way to bring control back to their lives. Sometimes, it's a traumatic
experience. Others start losing weight to look good, then discover
the rapid weight loss gets them a lot of attention. Most teens with
ED feel that if they can just reach a certain size and weight, they'll
be accepted by those around them.
said, "Frequently I would compare myself to others, longing
to know that I was accepted. I battled low self-esteem daily. Because
I believed my personal worth was determined by my accomplishments
and appearance, I tried to develop an identity of significance through
external means. I thought that if I met my own high standards I
would be valuable to others."
said, "Hunger reflected and expressed my needs. Food became
much more than a means for survival, or a way to maintain control
in my life; it became a symbol for love."
A female who diets before age 14 is 8X more likely to develop an
That Can Lead to an ED:
yourself in terms of appearance
and a need for control
in managing emotions
anxiety and lack of social skills
in a world of self-loathing, Lilly starved herself until her weight
plummeted dangerously low. Like thousands of teens, Lilly was consumed
by a crippling obsession with her weight that began as a need for
control when she was twelve. Gripped by this monster, she spent
her days surfing pro-anorexia websites, hiding the truth from her
family and friends. The eating disorder took over every aspect of
her life until, at sixteen, she was hospitalized. Doctors warned
her parents she might die.
James Lock, from Stanford University, said the mean age seems to
be going down for the onset of eating disorders. He stressed that
"early referral is essential" to keep cases from becoming
chronic. Lilly's parents said they never saw it coming. The signs
were there, but like many parents they had no reason to look for
the red flags. The most obvious warning signs of eating disorders
involve drastic change in eating habits and body image. The less
obvious signs may be disguised:
- Does she/he repeatedly compare herself or
find fault with her appearance?
she/he seem to have an intense fear of gaining weight or becoming
fat, especially if she/he is underweight or of normal weight?
she/he talk about her/his body negatively, having a distorted body
she/he talk about being teased about her/his weight?
she/he think that if she/he was skinny instead of fat, then she/he
wouldn't be teased anymore? Or being skinny will "make me happy?"
her/his eating habits changed? Has she/he lost interest in eating?
she/he solely eat low-fat foods and regard other foods as "bad?"
she/he pick or nibble or tear or cut the food into teeny-tiny pieces?
she/he eat only certain foods or eat at specific times or eat alone?
she/he skip meals, or make excuses to get out of eating, or say,
"I have already eaten."
she/he preoccupied or obsessed with diet products, counting calories,
food grams and nutrition?
she/he taken up smoking to suppress appetite and relieve stress?
there evidence of a large amount of empty food packages or laxative
packages, or excessive caffeine use?
she/he over-engage in sports, such as jog constantly or exercise
[in front of the television] for long periods of time?
she no longer menstruating?
she/he more withdrawn than usual? Has she/he suddenly isolated?
she/he skip meals, or make excuses to get out of eating, or say,
"I have already eaten." moved
she frequently study cookbooks but never actually eats what she
she/he eating alone, at night, or in secret?
she/he hoard high-calorie food?
she/he avoid social situations that involve food? For example, she/he
avoids the school cafeteria at lunch or the coffee shop or diner
where you usually meet on weekends.
she wear baggy clothes or multiple layers in an effort to hide dramatic
weight loss (or cutting herself)?
she/he compete with others about food intake? If she proudly says
she only had a diet soda for breakfast and half an apple for lunch,
that's a red flag.
she constantly shiver or have blue fingers, due to intolerance of
cold due to loss of body fat?
she/he have pasty looking skin, or hair loss or extra hair growth
on the face and arms?
you noticed broken blood vessels in the eyes or wounds on the upper
hand surface and knuckles caused by excessive purging as a result
disorders affect dental health in a number of ways. The most noticeable
are acid reflux effects. Symptoms include swelling of the cheeks
and jaw, tooth and gum sensitivity, tooth decay, tooth discoloration,
Eating disorders often onset during the teenage years, so it is
crucial to address them quickly. Early intervention is important.
If your child exhibits signs start talking, be concerned and take
action. But don't ambush her or him with well-meant but overly direct
or critical questioning. Getting good information is an important
Mom and Dad, realize your child is in a lonely place where all that
matters is her or his weight and the struggle to be thin. This is
her or his way of controlling life- the anxiety and stress. They
don't see the underlying reason or symptoms. They need to learn
new coping strategies and professional counseling can usually provide
this. Locate a professional who specializes in eating disorders.
Family therapy is one mode of treatment that has shown to have good
Do's and Don'ts
Try Not To ~
about food, weight, diets, or body shape.
or be overly watchful of their eating habits, food portions and
statements like, "If you'd just eat. . .or stop working out
so much. . ." you'll get better."
to avoid focusing on their physical appearance. Instead focus on
their strengths-that he or she is helpful and friendly, or good
at math or art.
what you may have noticed about his or her behavior. One mother,
after cleaning the toilet, screamed to her daughter in front of
her friends, "Are you making yourself throw up again?"
Ashamed and embarrassed she yelled back, "No!" Take her
aside in private, talk and let her know you are concerned about
what you see.
about what is going on. Stressors are school expectations, divorce,
abuse, or even being raised in a home where emotions are not expressed
or validated. If they won't talk to you find someone they trust,
like a school counselor, youth pastor or women's minister, or a
relative. Find someone who has recovered from an eating disorder,
who is willing to tell their story and offer encouragement.
an outlet of expression that will allow your child to share the
inner chaos caused by stress-such as arts and crafts, sculpting,
drama or comedy, music, ging or journaling. The library is a
great setting for teens to discover their passion for creativity.
her/him to get involved in a humanitarian effort or volunteer or
even start a small weekly peer group to talk about common issues.
a professional who specializes in eating disorders. Family therapy
is one mode of treatment that has shown to have good results.
them develop new healthy rewards and realistic goals that are greater
than the need to be thin. Be specific and as exact as possible.
Have them write down exactly what they want to achieve and post
it in a place where they will see it every day. Use positive terms.
Instead of writing, "I will stop eating junk food," word
the goal positively, "I will make healthy food choices such
as. . ."
her/him to believe in herself/himself and stay positive about their
progress. Humans are adaptive creatures. Just as we learn negative
behaviors (coping mechanisms), we can unlearn them. Kara DioGuardi,
one of the American Idol judges, suffered with binge eating
disorder. Her entrée into singing and the recording industry
helped pull her out of this dangerous spiral. She said, "the
moment I did what I loved to do in my life and committed to it,
I didn't have those problems anymore." Kara found purpose in
them share their goals, and dreams, with a mentor or good friend
who will help keep them accountable and lift their spirits up. Setting
goals, talking about dreams, and being in relationship with God,
helps her find her purpose.
flexible and patient. Remember Adolescence is hard enough even without
these complications. Keep in mind that setbacks happen. Don't get
discouraged and give up. >Above
all, pray for wisdom, strength and understanding.
If your child has an eating disorder, hang in there and have hope.
I won't lie, they are very tough, but beatable.
Lord is the Spirit who gives them life, and where he is there is
freedom" (2 Corinthians 3:17, TLB).
family was set up up by God to be a spiritual system, to impart
to children the spiritual laws of the universe. The family is where
we are supposed to learn God's ways of loving attachment, freedom
of choice, forgiveness, and growing in skills and talents. However,
we do not live in perfect families, and many families' rules are
much different than God's. God is saying (Mark 3:31-35) that we
need to get our family support from the ones who do His will. --
the Heal" by Dr. Henry Cloud
A Concerned Mom Asks ~
have an 18 year old daughter who just finished her first semester
at college. She has had anorexia since 8th grade. She was
hospitalized in an outpatient program during her sophomore year
of high school. She maintained her weight until she left home this
fall. She is now severely underweight and all of her old eating
patterns have reemerged. What can I do to help
her now that she is legally an adult? She refuses to go to a doctor.
Answered by a
First, of all you cannot tell your daughter how to run her life.
All you can do is be there for her and let her know that you care.
Having an eating disorder is a hard time for anyone to understand
exactly how an anorexic feels. She is in a lonely world where all
that matters is dealing with her weight and her struggle to become
thin. I have experienced this myself and let me tell you that I
could not believe the hell that I put my family through. I have
been dealing with anorexia for two and a half years and I have gained
weigh but I still go through the times were I want to purge and
become extremely thin again, to deal with all the hurt that angers
me. I know that it is highly frustrating and hard for you as her
parent, but please do understand that you cannot give up on her.
She needs all the emotional support that you can give her.
me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting. -- Ps. 139:23-24
Parents Prayer ~
Father, Please make me a discerning and alert parent so that I can
protect my children from evil influences, even if it means being
different than others. Give my children a desire for what is holy,
true, and good. Help me to model right choices for them. I pray
my children will grow up to love You with all their hearts and bring
You glory in this world. Father, give me the wisdom to lead them,
and help me communicate Your ways to them and how to rely on You.
I pray that You will open their hearts to the Truth, and their wills
be brought into submission to Yours, and that You protect them from
choices they will come to regret. In Jesus name, Amen.