Anorexia Nervosa is essentially a psychological illness that is characterized by the control of food intake. Those with the illness tend to have many thought patterns, obsessions, beliefs, and ideas that feed the disorder. Part of treating the control of eating in teens and adults is the exploration of those thoughts and beliefs.
To address the dysfunctional thought patterns, various psychological treatment forms are used. These include individual therapy, group therapy, support groups, and psycho-educational groups, which teach participants about the disorder so that they are familiar with the ways it is dysfunctional. Learning about an illness can help a teen make different choices.
In an Eating Disorder Therapy Group, an adolescent gains from the experiences of others. The opportunity to connect with and understand the experience of other teens in the room facilitates acceptance of the challenges of his or her diagnosis as well as creates compassion – not only for that other adolescent but also for herself. Because challenges of an eating disorder stem from dysfunctional thinking, having a community as well as a professional to facilitate a healthy conversation, can be incredibly enlightening. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) might also be used in both group and individual therapy. CBT is a form of therapy that aims to find dysfunctional thoughts and facilitates changing them with healthier ones.
In addition to addressing psychological concerns of teen anorexia treatment must also address the medical concerns. Severely controlling food intake leads to physical consequences. For instance, with too little food in the body, the muscles and the tissues start to break down. Those with teen anorexia move through cycles of self-starvation, denying the body essential nutrients it needs to function normally. The body is forced to slow down all of its processes in order to conserve energy.
For instance, with Anorexia Nervosa:
- The heartbeat reduces to a very slow rate, causing low blood pressure and changes in the muscle of the heart. There is risk for heart failure as the blood pressure become lower and lower.
- Because of lack of nutrients the bone density weakens leading to Osteoporosis.
- There is muscle loss and weakness.
- Severe dehydration can cause kidney failure
- Because of overall weakness, there is fainting and fatigue.
- The dehydration causes dry hair and skin and there is excessive hair loss.
- Tendency to get cold easily.
- Hair might begin to grow on the body, a condition called lanugo, which happens as a way to keep the body warm.
If you’re concerned that your son or daughter might have an eating disorder, the following are a list of behavioral, physiological, and attitudinal signs to look for:
- Signs of restricted eating – dieting, low food intake, or fasting.
- Odd food ritual – cutting food into pieces, counting bites.
- Intense fear of becoming fat, regardless of an already low weight
- Fear of food and certain situations where food is present.
- Rigid exercise schedule
- Dressing in layers to hide weight loss.
- Use of laxatives, enemas, or diuretics to eliminate food in the body.
- Weight loss in a short period of time.
- Cessation of menstruation without a physiological cause.
- Complaints of feeling cold
- Dizziness and fainting spells.
Signs of Attitude Change
- Mood swings
- Perfectionist attitude
- Insecurities about her capabilities despite actual performance
- Feelings of self-worth are determined by what is or is not eaten.
- Withdrawal from people.
- Self-acceptance comes from external sources.
If you or someone you know exhibits any of the above signs of teen anorexia and there is indication that an eating disorder might be present, seeking the assistance of a mental health professional can be crucial. He or she can conduct an assessment, make a diagnosis, and prepare the appropriate treatment plan.
By Robert Hunt
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