Bulimia nervosa, a severe psychiatric disorder, has made a significant impact on the society. According to a study, about eight million individuals in the United States (about 3% of the population) struggle with eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia. It affects men and women of all ages and race, whatever history, and background.
Moreover, the symptoms of bulimia often manifest at an early age, around teenage years. It is because disorders and mental issues often arise during stages of growth like puberty. But as parents, how can we pinpoint whether or not our child is struggling with bulimia? And most importantly, how can we help in seeking treatment and fighting against it?
Oftentimes, symptoms and behaviors are rationalized and minimized by the person who engages in them. — Lisa Ferentz LCSW-C, DAPA
Causes Of Bulimia
Like anorexia and other eating disorders, the exact cause of bulimia nervosa is often difficult to determine. There may be risks of forming genetic links if, say, a parent or a sibling is suffering from an eating disorder. Some studies imply that brain activity may influence food intake. Pop culture also has a significant role in projecting the perfect “body image” onto the public, which instills pressure and decreases the self-esteem of many.
Looking Out For Warning Signs And Symptoms
Your child may show some signs of bulimia nervosa or none at all. Most people keep the fact that they’re struggling with an eating disorder hidden, so observing and looking out for the following signs is very crucial:
- Obsession with body image and weight
- Unusual behavior around meals (eating in large quantities and feeling shameful after)
- Social withdrawal
- Hiding or hoarding food and groceries
- Asking for money to buy binge food
- Depression and anxiety
- Excessive exercising
Clients with anorexia and bulimia who have pervasive psychological undercurrents motivating their behavior with food are negatively impacted by the billion dollar marketing efforts of the weight loss industry. — Dawn Delgado LMFT, CEDS-S
Your child may even suffer from symptoms of physical damage as a result of persistent binging and purging:
- Menstrual irregularities or amenorrhea (loss of menstruation)
- Poor bowel functioning
- Hoarse and raspy voice condition
- Mouth and throat sores
- Teeth and gum damage
- Scars on the knuckles, fingers, or hands (self-induced vomiting)
Seeking Treatment For Bulimia
The following treatments can be used to help your child:
Antidepressants, from time-to-time, are used to decrease cycles of binge eating and purging as well as relieve anxiety and depression from the patient.
Psychological counseling has two types: cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT). CBT pushes your child to change how he/she feels about body image and weight while IPT plays a significant role in teaching your child the impact of relationships and how those relationships and your child’s feelings towards them affect bingeing and purging.
Tips To Follow For Parents Of Bulimics
As parents, what tips should you keep in mind when helping your child? Some of these tips were taken online from the articles of Dr. Kim Dennis, a psychiatrist connected with Timberline Knolls:
Communication. Keeping lines of communication open for your child is essential. They need to be consoled knowing that it’s okay to talk about their struggles and feelings.
Be patient and calm. Keep your frustrations at bay. It is clear that your child’s issue is very concerning and worrying, but it is best to be able to take the problem head on without anything blinding the way.
Help your child admit and accept that they’re struggling. Parents play a significant role in shaping their children to be who they will be in the future. Give them a nudge, sit down and have a talk or a good cry. Help them admit it to themselves and learn that what they are doing is distorted and not suitable for themselves.
Expose your child to positive outlets. Keep those fashion magazines away. Remind your child to avoid peers who body shame or continuously talk about weight loss, and look up better meal planning and healthy eating lifestyle.
Fight their unpleasant feelings with them. Identify what your child is feeling. Help them dig deeper and realize that these are not positively influencing your child. Distance from negativity and evil thoughts but accept it instead of running away from it.
Offer support. Always remember how your child feels and remind him/her you care.
Suggest professional help. When you talk, coax your child into seeking for help. Tell them it’s entirely helpful, and diminish any negative stigma about therapy and counseling.
The truth is: weight is a lousy indication of health. — Alexis Conason Psy.D.
Remember that your teen is developing and transitioning to adulthood. Avoid giving insults and patronizing jabs, it may hurt them more than you think. Always set a good example and take care of yourself; it is no exaggeration when people say that a child is a reflection of their parents. Lastly, always know when to accept your limits. There’s only so much a parent can do for their child. It is essential to keep in mind that your child is the one who will make decisions and make those big leaps to growth and betterment.