How to Approach a Teenage Girl About Her Eating Disorder
While it's true that both male and female teens face specific pressures that are inherent to growing up, adolescent girls are especially scrutinized for the way they look.
For most teenage girls, pressures to act a certain way, talk a certain way, and look a certain way, are all-new and unfamiliar stresses. For many girls, living with unfair and unique standards to live by is all too overwhelming for their young minds to deal with. It's not uncommon for girls to feel that they will never measure up to their society's overtly sexist and unrealistic standard for feminine beauty. Sadly, it doesn't take a behavioral expert to surmise why teenage girls are particularly susceptible to developing low self-images.
Society's Pressure For Girls To "Look Good" Are Irresponsibly Sexist
American society's added emphasis on the importance of aesthetics for young women is unjust and overtly sexist. Additionally, these societal and sexist pressures to "look good" can easily cause a teenage girl to go to extra and unhealthy lengths to meet unrealistic societal and personal physical standards. Ultimately, these pressures to look 'good cause millions of adolescent girls to develop an eating disorder.
If a teenage girl develops an eating disorder, she must receive immediate therapy for her condition - failure to do so can potentially be fatal. However, more importantly, it is the type of treatment parents choose to employ for their daughter's potentially fatal condition. Whereas traditional therapy with a counselor may work for some of her mental issues, parents should instead opt for more intensive treatment, like a residential treatment facility.
Eating Disorders: A Severe Mental Illness
Eating disorders are made up of extreme eating habits that stem from a very severe and potentially fatal mental illness that should be treated for what it is: a disease. Unfortunately, since only 3% of teenage girls suffer from an eating disorder, extreme eating habits are also a mental illness that goes widely ignored - for which the lack of resources is deeply troublesome.
Lack of resources and awareness aside, the 3 % of teenage girls who suffer from an eating disorder live with a mental illness that puts them at risk of damaging their brain, teeth, kidney, or liver. In severe cases, girls can even die from their mentally ill-induced eating habits.
What Qualifies As An Eating Disorder?
Eating disorders are clinically classified as an eating habit that is considered to be dangerously abnormal. While eating disorders are mainly thought of as a means to lose weight, binge eating and overeating (which cause one to gain weight) are also considered disorders. Girls are twice as likely to develop eating disorders than boys. While highly treatable, eating disorders, if left untreated, can be dangerous and even fatal.
The Three Most Prevalent Eating Disorders Among Teenage Girls
- Anorexia nervosa
- Bulimia nervosa
- Binge-eating disorder
What To Do if You Suspect (or Know) Your Daughter Is Suffering From An Eating Disorder
If a parent believes their teenage daughter is suffering from an eating disorder, they must act swiftly. But quick action is only part of it. They must also approach their daughter with a calm and loving demeanor.
To provide them with the confidence they so desperately need to overcome their psychological issues, the way parents approach the topic is paramount.
Tips for Parents: Firstly, it is crucial for parents to calmly and lovingly approaching their daughter from a place of understanding, void of judgment; it is paramount to be as subtle as possible.
For example, a parent might say, "Your mom (or dad) and I have noticed that you haven't had much of an appetite and are losing weight lately. Are you OK?"
After addressing your suspicions as subtly as possible, parents need to allow their daughter to respond while carefully listening to their response. If she denies or downplays her condition, parents should calmly tell their daughter that they believe she struggles with an eating disorder, followed by the severity of such diseases and how dangerous they may become if left untreated.
Finally, after getting their daughter to admit that she has an issue and needs help, parents should end on a note that allows their daughter to know that they are there for her and that, while severe, treatment is plentiful and effective in treating her illness.
After calmly addressing the severity of her mental issues, it is time to discuss treatment. Parents should then follow up by taking the time and explain to their daughter that more traditional, less intensive therapeutic options, such as one-on-one sessions with a therapist, might not be enough to save her from further pain and potentially fatal consequences. By this point, their daughter should at least appreciate why residential treatment may, in fact, be her, as well as her parent's, best option in terms of treating her illness and potentially saving her life.