What Parents Need to Know About Bulimia
The first thing parents need to understand about bulimia and other eating disorders is that they are not a conscious choice on the part of your child. Bulimia is not a decision your child has made but a medical and psychological disorder that requires medical and psychological treatment. Once parents understand that bulimia is an illness and not just a poor choice, they can begin the process of locating a mental health treatment center that can provide their child with the help they need to live a life free of bulimia and other related eating disorders.
What Is Bulimia?
Bulimia nervosa is the recurring cycle of out-of-control binge eating followed by purging or fasting to compensate for the extra caloric intake. Purging does not just refer to self-induced vomiting but may also manifest in the form of extreme exercise and/or the excessive use of diet pills, diuretics and laxatives. What takes many parents by surprise about the eating disorder is that children and teens with bulimia generally maintain a normal weight and seem very healthy. Oftentimes, kids struggling with bulimic behavior are shining examples of discipline and excel in school and their extracurricular activities.
Why Does it Develop?
Parents need to recognize that their child’s problem with bulimia represents something much larger than just body image or weight control issues. A teen’s eating behavior provides insight into their emotional life and the coping mechanisms they are currently utilizing. Bulimia can be a sign of emotional immaturity, developmental stages that still need to be mastered or cognitive misunderstandings that can disrupt a teen’s ability to make a healthy transition into adulthood. Bulimia is a symptom that your child is trying to establish control over their fears and anxieties. Unfortunately, the attempt to gain control in this manner leads to the loss of it as the disease progresses and your teen becomes powerless to stop.
Bulimia tears apart the families that it invades. Approximately one percent of teens in the United States struggle with bulimia, and each one takes his or her family along for the ride. Though more common in families with female teenagers, about five to 15 percent of those with bulimia are male, an incidence most commonly related to performance in sports, like wrestling.
No matter what the reason for the development of bulimia, the stress on the family can ruin holidays and family gatherings and infect the relationships between parents, between parents and the teen, and all sibling relationships. Bulimia treatment is the best way to not only heal the teen struggling with bulimia but to begin the process of healing the rifts in the family. After bulimia treatment, the entire family can be well on their way to healthy, balanced relationships with each other.
The Teen–Sibling Relationship
There are generally a handful of different reactions that siblings have when a brother or sister is struggling with bulimia:
- Irritation. Many siblings simply don’t understand the psychological issues that underlie bulimia. They think, “Either eat it or don’t. It should be simple.” But it’s not simple, and many siblings end up fighting with their struggling brother or sister and adding to the tension in the house.
- Sadness. Other siblings may feel depressed when they can’t help their brother or sister stop the bulimic habits. It’s just as difficult for them to watch the disorder progress as it is for many parents.
- Jealousy. When a sibling struggles with any mental disorder or disease, including bulimia, they garner a lot of attention. Even when they’re not around, other kids in the house may feel like the focus is always on their sibling and their eating disorder and never, or rarely, on them.
- Indifference. For some siblings, the only feeling is none at all. With busy schedules full of school, jobs, hanging out with friends, playing sports and other activities, many siblings prefer to completely detach from their struggling brother or sister rather than engage.
In most cases, sibling will experience a combination of emotions, and those emotions will change throughout the progression of the eating disorder.
How to Help Your Child Fight
Parents should take action at the first sign that their child is struggling with bulimia. You do not need to wait until the behavior is deeply entrenched to seek help from a bulimia treatment center. The earlier an eating disorder is discovered, the better the chance your child will make a full recovery.
Tackling bulimia requires parents to find a treatment program that addresses all aspects affected by the disorder. A quality treatment regimen should focus on biological, emotional, nutritional and behavioral issues that surround the bulimic behavior. This may sound overwhelming, but the following steps can help focus your search for top-quality bulimia treatment.
Steps That Can Help+
- Decide to Get Help. If you are reading this article, you are already well on your way to completing the first step! Until a choice to receive help is made, no forward progress toward health can happen.
- Choose Level of Care. Deciding whether your child needs outpatient treatment (where they receive treatment during the day and come home at night) or inpatient treatment (where they stay for a specific period time at a residential facility) will be the first big decision in finding an appropriate bulimia rehab center for your child. Getting an assessment from a psychologist to determine how ingrained the eating disorder has become will help you to make the best decision.
- Clarify Other Issues. Decide what additional problems may be helping to feed the problem with bulimia. For instance, are there other psychological problems such as anxiety or depression at play? Are there substance abuse problems or any past physical or psychological trauma? Many bulimia treatment centers have programs to address specific issues such as these, and this information can help parents to narrow down the treatment program choices.
- Get Your Questions Answered. Call us at the phone number listed above and ask any questions you have about the types of bulimia treatment available and which type of mental health treatment program will work best for your child.
- Payment Options. Find out if your insurance will cover treatment and if your chosen bulimia rehab program will work with your insurance company. If it will not or you are without insurance, ask each possible treatment facility what alternative payment methods they offer.
- Make Your Final Choice. After you’ve considered everything above, the only thing left to do is to make your ultimate decision and enroll your child in bulimia treatment.
Make the Call
If your child is in need of bulimia treatment, you don’t have to grapple with finding top-rated rehab facilities on your own. Proactive parenting is key to effective teen bulimia treatment, so pick up the phone and contact us today. Make the call that can be the first step in turning your teen’s health around.