Eating disorders: a scary topic applicable to all girls in some shape or form. To better inform ourselves about eating disorders, because most of us have either struggled with an eating disorder or know a loved one who has, niNe. sought out the expertise of two professional psychologists.
Q What are some signs that someone might be going through an eating disorder?
A Signs of an eating disorder can range from discrete to obvious warnings. Generally, someone who’s struggling with an eating disorder has a preoccupation with food, weight loss and body image issues. Their behavior is typically secretive and isolated towards food and eating behaviors. More specific signs could include: having a small or no lunch on a regular basis, leaving a group after a meal and returning with puffy red eyes, commenting on how fat she is or how she eats too much, clothes looking baggy or wearing too many layers of clothes, saying she is cold, skin looks gray, eyes have red dots around or in them and excessive exercise.
Q What are some of the internal and external causes of eating disorders?
A Many factors contribute to the development of eating disorders. While external aspects can certainly play a part in the progress of an eating disorder, many internal factors that cause disordered eating as well. Some external factors include: social pressure, teen magazines, teasing, recommendation to lose weight by a parent, coach or doctor, dieting, feeling uncomfortable with this new, foreign female body, break-ups or bad sexual experiences. The internal factors can be: low self-worth, a vulnerable personality, a strict, controlled life, a perfectionist or chaotic family, genetics (mother, father, sister, etc. has an eating disorder, addiction or mental health issue), boredom, not feeling special or feeling like she isn’t good at anything.
Q How do I support a loved one who’s struggling with an eating disorder?
A Supporting someone who’s fighting an eating disorder depends upon the level of realization of their eating disorder, as well as their comfort zone in accepting support. Consult them gently to understand where they are and how they would like support. When talking with a close friend who’s experiencing an eating disorder don’t ever blame, attack or pressure them to change. Also, it hardly ever serves a positive purpose to watch over a loved one while she’s eating. This can create defensiveness and humiliation or a feeling of lack of support. Many individuals find it comforting to have a loved one there just to listen. If you feel lost as to what to do, talk to an older individual like a parent or a mentor.
Q What are the first steps toward treatment for an eating disorder?
A Treatment for an eating disorder should involve finding a qualified professional or treatment program experienced in treating disordered eating. Many women find it helpful to compile a treatment team including a psychologist/psychotherapist, nutritionist, psychiatrist and medical doctor.
Check out these helpful and heartbreaking books about disordered eating and body image.
*Input received from:
Joan Unruh: Joan is a licensed professional counselor and certified addictions counselor. She practices in Boulder, Colorado. www.joanunruh.com
Malia Sperry: Malia is the Clinical Director at the LaLuna Center in Boulder, Colorado. www.lalunacenter.com