By Wendy Rice, Psy.D. Licensed Psychologist
Why won’t you just start eating more?!
Just eat more dessert- that will fix this eating problem!
What do you mean you force yourself to throw up after you eat??? Stop doing that!!!
The frustration expressed by parents of teenage girls struggling with an eating disorder generally centers around the counterintuitive and largely irrational nature of this disease. Parents see the overt and physical ramifications of problem; their child is losing an unhealthy amount of weight, is engaging in unhealthy weight control behaviors, and is starting to think and act in very different and often distressing ways.
As a clinical psychologist specializing in the treatment of eating disorders, I have had innumerable moms and dads come into my office feeling stuck, frustrated, and helpless. They cannot understand how the solution to the problem can be so obvious, yet they are somehow unable to convince their daughter that merely eating more will make everything better. The inherent challenge in treating an eating disorder involves the largely irrational nature and the psychological underpinnings of the disease.
Although most individuals struggling with an eating disorder first present to their primary care doctor due to a significant change in weight or other medical complications associated with the disorder, effective treatment generally requires a referral to a psychologist specializing in the treatment of eating and weight disorders. Although some research supports the use of fluoxetine in the treatment of adult eating disorders, further studies are needed to clarify the utility of antidepressants and other psychotropic medications in treating adolescents with eating problems.
Overwhelmingly, the treatment of choice for eating disorders is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT for eating disorders is an intensive treatment provided by an experienced psychologist that involves the following components:
- Modification of the environment to support healthy changes
- Establishment of a normalized eating pattern
- Food exposures/challenging rigid food rules
- Reduction/elimination of binge eating and compensatory behavior (purging)
- Identification of eating disorder thinking and mindsets
- Replacement of eating disorder thinking with more rational thought patterns
- Improvement in body image
- Family support
- Relapse prevention
CBT is used to treat eating problems faced by teenage girls, women, and an increasing number of men and boys. If you or someone you know is struggling with poor body image or eating concerns, we can help. Contact Rice Psychology to schedule a diagnostic evaluation and treatment planning session. Through our scientifically supported treatment programs, we can help them eat more.