Parents might not notice a skipped meal here and there, but when an adult child displays unhealthy habits pointing to an eating disorder, parents need to pay attention. Overly obsessing about every bite, displaying severe anxiety over sharing meals with friends or family, taking laxatives frequently, or being constantly concerned about cardio exercise are signs an adult child may be having a tough time and suffering with an eating disorder. The National Institute of Mental Health gives detailed descriptions of the signs and symptoms of eating disorders, including anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating.
Changing eating habits at home to help, like incorporating family meal times, cooking together, taking trips to the farmers market, and facilitating discussion on nutrition, is a good start in helping an adult child with an eating disorder. When families eat meals together, children of all ages develop and maintain healthy habits and gain self-esteem. Parents should consider their own approach toward physical appearances and relationships with food. However, trying to solve the problem at home may not be enough to sustain a long term healthy lifestyle for parents with children who have eating disorders. Eating disorders may focus on food, weight and body appearance but are about emotional sufferings in relationship to self and others.
An eating disorder may be a sign or symptom of a larger, more complex problem. For example, a young adult might binge eat to avoid feeling emotions that hurt, like anger, fear, sadness, or guilt. Many young women starve themselves, aiming to be supermodel skinny, while others binge, purge, and become addicted to laxatives. Often times, young adults with an eating disorder have faced trauma including violence, sexual abuse, or bullying. Inner conflicts like low self-esteem or feeling scared and victimized, need to be settled so that young adults may develop a healthy relationship with their body and with food. Coming up a with a wellness plan, as a comprehensive effort, including the expertise of doctors, nutritionists, and psychologists, may be the best way to help a child with an eating disorder. This plan must include explanation of the meaning of the eating disorder struggle, often a search for how to resolve paradoxes over how to find nurturance while also being separate and empowered.
Eating disorders are deeply ingrained behavioral patterns that negatively impact the relationships one has with food and self-image. The body and mind suffer greatly from eating disorders. At Yellowbrick, eating disorders are treated with a multifaceted approach when an individual enters the Intensive Outpatient Eating Disorder Service. After an initial assessment, proper nutrition and medical interventions are made. Then, Yellowbrick clinicians focus on the behaviors associated with the eating disorder and deep psychological problems rooted in the individual. Program participants journal daily to sort through their feelings, track their nutrition, and discover the core causes of their eating disorders. Through meaningful relationships with caring clinicians, young adults with eating disorders adapt to healthy patterns while receiving intensive support services throughout their recovery. Learn more about how to help an adult child with an eating disorder.
Noticing the signs of an adult child with an eating disorder is the first step on the road to recovery. Addressing eating disorders early may save lives as anorexia has the highest mortality of any psychiatric illness. Anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating may be a surface symptom of a serious underlying struggle. Coming up with a wellness plan that includes the knowledge, expertise, patience, and care of medical and mental health professionals may be the best way to help an adult child with an eating disorder.