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Teen to Teen. Let's Talk
by love__me January 7th 2009, 07:45 AM

Teen to Teen. Let's talk.
By Kaylee.

High school, the hardest time in a teenager’s life. With the schoolwork, preparing for college, parents, and the stress of finals can really make us feel the pressure. We feel out of control, but imagine dealing with all of the above mentioned, and also dealing with the battle of your own body. Some teenagers do just that, and some even develop an eating disorder in the process.

I am one of those teenagers who deal with body image issues. My name is Kaylee; I am a senior in high school. Dealing with an eating disorder while in high school is very hard on a teenager. You feel the pressure to be in the “in crowd”. We see the messages on T.V. about the idea that “thin is in” and some teens take it way too far. It could be the teen’s home life which might not be so great, or the peer pressure from friends to be “in” that starts them on the deadly journey of their life.

Eating disorders can develop at any age, but most often happen in the teen years, as the teenager is trying to figure out who they are, and how they should look. Eating disorders give the teenager a very simple answer to these questions: “I want to be thin” and this is only reinforced by constant messages from the media and the rest of society that “thin” equals happy, attractive, and successful, whereas “fat” equals lonely, unattractive and lazy. Unfortunately, no matter how thin the teenager becomes, he or she will never be thin enough.

This is the start of the eating disorder’s demands, which will only become more intense and more insane as the sufferer gets drawn further and further in. The precise form these demands take will depend on the particular eating disorder to which the sufferer falls prey to. It may be anorexia, in which case the sufferer will feel obliged to restrict their food intake and possibly also exercise compulsively in a deadly bid to be as thin as possible.

Alternatively, the sufferer may become bulimic and alternate between eating inappropriately large amounts of unhealthy food and using unhealthy purging behaviors to compensate for this.

A third scenario is where low self esteem leads the sufferer to believe that no matter what they do they will never be happy, attractive, successful and all the other positive qualities associated with being thin. This leads to conditions such as compulsive over-eating and binge eating disorder, in which the sufferer eats inappropriately large amounts without resorting to the compensatory purging behaviors associated with bulimia.

Not all Eating Disorders have a name, some fall into the category of EDNOS. Also known as Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. This means that the teenager might have some of the signs for the above disorders, but not all of them to put them totally in that category. It is still a dangerous disorder, along with the above disorders it should be treated as soon as possible.

It should be pointed out that these four categories are not mutually exclusive, and that many sufferers show symptoms of a combination of these disorders at the same time, or go through periods of each of them.

Another important point to bear in mind is that, however strange this may sound, eating disorders are not actually to do with food and weight. The more fundamental issue is the low self-esteem that leads sufferers to believe that they can only be acceptable if they are thin rather than focusing on more positive and achievable goals.

It should also be remembered that people with eating disorders may not necessarily be at an obviously unhealthy weight. While most anorexics will be noticeably underweight, and most compulsive over-eaters will be noticeably overweight, most bulimics tend to remain at an apparently normal weight, and sufferers from binge eating disorder may be either of normal weight or overweight depending on the frequency and intensity of the binges.

Without meaning to be unduly morbid, it has to be said for the sake of anyone contemplating going down the path of any kind of eating disorder that all of them can be deadly. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric condition (including depression and schizophrenia) and all eating disorder behaviors carry their own risks. Sufferers may die from the physical damage caused by the eating disorder, or the mental and emotional turmoil of living with an eating disorder may eventually drive them to suicide.

So to end on a more positive note, how can eating disorders be prevented, or what strategies can those already suffering from them use to get themselves out of the downward spiral in which they are trapped?

The most important part of this is developing the healthy self-esteem necessary to resist the societal pressures by which we are constantly surrounded. Most sufferers use eating disorder behaviors as “punishment” for their perceived inadequacies and failures. Therefore recognition that appearance and weight are not the be-all and end-all, and that everyone needs and deserves adequate nutrition is an essential component in recovering from an eating disorder or preventing one from developing in the first place. This can be achieved by using positive affirmations.

Associated with this may be a need to identify and work on the issues that caused low self-esteem to develop in the first place. When and from who did we first get the message that we were somehow “inadequate” or “unacceptable”, and why did we fix on food and eating as the way to deal with that?

Most people with eating disorders are not very good at dealing with potentially uncomfortable feelings such as sadness, anger or guilt. Therefore learning HEALTHY ways of dealing with these feelings can also be of great benefit.

The final message has to be that eating disorders can cause great pain and suffering both to those who suffer from them and to those who care for or about them but that there is hope, and recovery is possible.

Last edited by eunoia; January 23rd 2010 at 07:46 PM.
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