What is Teen Anorexia Treatment?
Teen Anorexia Treatment is needed when teens have distorted images of themselves as overweight when in reality, they’re clearly (sometimes, unhealthily) underweight. Teens with Anorexia have such strong, overwhelming fears of gaining weight and/or maintaining their weight that they go to extreme measures, such as starving themselves or eating extremely limited amounts.
What It Looks Like
First and foremost, teens with Anorexia are obsessed with controlling their weight, and do so by eating very little or nothing at all, excessive exercise, and sometimes binge eating, followed by using substances to purge their bodies of food, such as diuretics or enemas. Severe Teen Anorexia, or Anorexia which persists over a lengthy amount of time, can lead to serious health problems, and even death. Also, because such malnutrition clearly has effects on a teenager’s mental clarity, ability to concentrate, and sleep schedule, often school work, relationships, and other responsibilities will suffer.
Some symptoms of Teen Anorexia may include, but are not limited to:
- Brittle hair and nails
- Growth of fine body hair
- Dry, yellowish skin
- Sever constipation
- Low blood pressure
- Brain damage
- Organ failure
- Low body temperature
- Constant tiredness
- Thinning of bones
Teenagers with Anorexia also may have distorted views of themselves that extend beyond just their physical appearance. They often suffer from low self-esteem, high stress, and/or a sense of chaos in life that leads them to desire extreme control over something (such as their weight.)
It’s important to note that teenagers can sometimes make considerable efforts in order to hide their Anorexic behaviors from others. They also may deny that they have a problem, and even lie about their perceptions of themselves, in order to not “get caught.” Because of this, it can sometimes be hard to recognize Anorexia when a teenager has a problem and needs help.
Teen Anorexia Treatment
The most important and immediate goal of teen anorexia treatment is to restore and protect their physical well-being, which means helping them return to a healthy weight. This includes careful interventions with regard to both diet and exercise. This process can take time and may be met with resistance, as the teens may not yet agree with their need for treatment, and/or may not be willing to engage willfully. It’s important for teens to be carefully monitored and wholly supported through this process, which is one benefit of Paradigm’s residential teen treatment, in that it provides such a uniquely supportive environment for healing to occur.
Beyond healthy weight management, therapists also work with teens to address any other connected behaviors, false belief systems, and unhealthy ways of dealing with stress. Therapists help teens to recognize what conflict or stress may be leading to their unhealthy habits with food, which can help teens start to make progress toward overall healthier views of themselves as well. Therapists also provide an invaluable support to teens in creating an objective, safe, non-judging, supportive system that helps teens to recognize they’re not alone and to have the courage to address what they’re going through.
Occasionally, therapists will recommend medications to help alleviate some of the symptoms that teens with Anorexia may experience, especially such as Depression and Anxiety. At times, such medications- either temporarily or longer term- can help alleviate the high levels of stress which worrying about weight causes a teenager. Once this stress is alleviated, teenagers may feel more able to address their condition openly and engage in their treatment process.
What should I do if I think my teenager is Anorexic, but he or she denies it?
The first step is to try to talk honestly and openly with your child. This needs to be done in a setting where you are alone together, your teenager feels safe and un-threatened (from other people overhearing), and there’s sufficient time for the discussion to take place. Tell them your concerns and what you have observed, while not judging their behaviors or putting any guilt on them. If he/she denies any problem, or refuses to talk about it at all, you should contact either a doctor or therapist for help. This step helps take the responsibility off of your shoulders, as well as bringing in a professional, objective opinion that (usually) will be harder for the teenager to ignore.