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Being thin is in. This notion is engraved in our society so much so that every girl now wants to be a size zero Kareena Kapoor and Preity Zinta. As a result eating disorders are on a rise, especially among teenage girls.
But what is an eating disorder, you might ask? It is a psychological condition which severely affects a person’s eating habits. To further elucidate on eating disorders, we need to classify its types -
- Anorexia Nervosa: A person suffering from anorexia nervosa will have distorted body image and will perceive oneself as overweight despite being thin. In order to reduce weight, they will curb their food intake going to extreme measures of dieting and in many cases even starving themselves, paired with excessive exercising.
- Bulimia Nervosa: In this form of eating disorder a person first will indulge in uncontrolled eating, more than a stomach’s fill, later on accompanied by self-induced vomiting or intake of laxatives and dietary pills will try to flush out the food splurged earlier. Some patients might even jump to rigorous exercise to burn calories, but that generally remains a second option.
- Binge Eating: This form can be described as frequent episodes of uncontrollable eating more than a normal person would eat in a particular amount of time. Those suffering of binge eating disorder generally eat even when they are not hungry and food replaces the voids in there lives.
Even though eating disorders are associated with food, they are more than just abnormal eating habits of people. Rather eating disorders are an indication of greater underlying problems in a person’s life. Many patients seek food as a way of dealing with life and its problems. Also, those suffering from anorexia and bulimia have self-critical attitudes and live in self-doubt.
Eating disorders although are not perceived to be harmful, but in reality they can be quite fatal for they cause malnutrition and if not caught at the right time could lead renal failure, cancer of the esophagus (in case of bulimia patients as self induced acidic vomit causes tears in the esophagus), stomach problems and heart failure. So, as a parent you should be on a look out for the following symptoms:
Preoccupation with body and weight
Constant complaints about being overweight, even though the person is thin
Regular dieting and avoiding food
Rapid and unexplained weight loss and weight gain
Going to bathroom after meals
Taking diet pills and laxatives
If you see any these signs in your child then it is essential that you confront her/him even though s/he denies having an eating disorder. Generally persons with eating disorders don’t believe that they have any problems, especially anorexics. Therefore it is essential that while talking to your child about your concerns you should be polite and supportive instead of firm and harsh. Whatever you are going through, your child is going is through something even worse. Talk her/him casually and avoid any accusatory or controversial statements. Rather listen intently and don’t lecture or sermonize. It will take some time for your child to come to terms with the facts and there are chances that s/he might even shut you out. In the meantime, you can set a good example for your child by eating healthily and proportionally and encourage your child to do the same. So don’t give up, instead, remember that your child’s health is at stake.
The next step is to talk to a medical professional who can guide you in your journey from disorderly hell to the road of recovery. Normally, nutritional therapy along with psychotherapy works best. In severe cases the patient might even have to be hospitalized.
If eating disorders are caught on time, then there is nothing to worry about for they are completely curable. But a delay could lead to both physical and emotional damage.