Many people have heard of eating disorders, but disordered eating may sound less familiar. Disordered eating is a phrase describing a range of problematic eating behaviors and attitudes. The characteristics of disordered eating are similar to eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa but may not be as severe. Disordered eating is actually quite common among children and adolescents. However, the key for parents and caregivers is to address it before it worsens and develops into an eating disorder.
Disordered eating among children and adolescents typically occur when they develop an unhealthy relationship with food or a distorted body image. It often coincides with other mental health concerns such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse and takes a toll on children/teen’s self-esteem. The behaviors and thinking of distorted eating become disruptive and interfere in everyday life. It may have consequences on their physical and mental health.
Disordered eating may include:
- Frequent dieting or obsessive calorie counting
- Rigid food restriction, skipping meals, fasting
- Feeling anxiety, guilt, or shame about specific foods or food in general
- Obsessive exercising or exercise to “punish” for overeating
- Binging and/or purging
- Using laxatives or medication to change their shape or size
- Negative self-talk regarding body shape, size, or weight
- Feeling out of control around food
- Using food for emotional comfort
If any of the above describes what your child or teen is experiencing, counseling may be beneficial. In counseling, your child or teen is afforded a confidential space to speak freely and process their feelings. Children and young people are often looking for someone to understand and just listen, which is what our professional counselors can provide. Through a safe and non-judgmental approach, underlying causes for the disordered eating are discovered and can be addressed. We can also help your child or adolescent develop coping skills and self-soothing strategies to better manage their heavy feelings and practice healthier habits.
If you believe your child or teen is struggling with symptoms of disordered eating and needs support, our affiliated professional counselors are here to help. They practice child-friendly evidence-based techniques such as play, art, and sandtray in their therapy. They may also utilize Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Solution-Focused approaches. Give our office a call today and let’s schedule a time to talk.