Cognitive Therapy is Very Effective in Treating Teenage Eating Disord

Adolescence is often a time of weight fluctuation as children’s developing bodies change and grow. However, when excess weight becomes a longer term health issue, an eating disorder such as Anorexia or Bulimia may be the culprit. One successful treatment is cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT.

Make no mistake: these severe departures from normal eating behaviors are categorized as mental illnesses because once a child enters this cycle, it usually becomes impossible to break without help. CBT is a form of psychotherapy that helps children recognize the types of thought processes, usually negative, that can trigger their extreme eating behaviors. Under the guidance of a psychotherapist, cognitive therapy trains patients to steer clear of irrational thoughts, which in turn makes it easier to experience more positive emotions.

During a typical session therapists trained in CBT teach their young patients to use breathing and relaxation exercises as another way to break the destructive link between thoughts and actions. They work with kids and their parents in a goal oriented, step-by-step fashion. Games, stories, and even puppets are also part of the mix. The difference between cognitive behavioral therapy and the traditional “talking therapies,” is that it is focused on present day solutions for present day problems.

The major eating disorders are Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa. Both cause their sufferers to eat much less (Anorexia) or potentially much more (Bulimia) than normal in an out of control spiral of destructive behavior. With both illnesses, individuals perceive themselves as overweight, even though they are not. They weigh themselves repeatedly and for Anorexics, measure their food intake obsessively.

With both Anorexics and Bulimics, it is vitally important to intervene in this deadly process on their behalf, because in almost all cases, they are unable to break free themselves. Eating disorder adolescents are up to 10 times more likely than their age peers to die prematurely – usually from cardiac arrest, electrolyte and fluid imbalance or suicide.

Anorexic teenagers tend to perfectionists and overachievers, but they suffer from low self-esteem; believe themselves to be fat; and have a desperate need for mastery. Saying no to eating gives them a temporary sense of control over their lives. A chilling fact is that Anorexia has the highest fatality rate of any mental illness.

Bulimia is characterized by recurrent and frequent episodes of purging, self-induced vomiting and excessive exercising. It is often preceded by binge-eating unusually large amounts of food, though in fact, once in the grip of Bulimia, victims will be inclined to induce vomiting almost every time they eat. The key thing to know is that Bulimics are compelled to vomit and purge because they also perceive that they are overweight.

After a short time in the grips of Bulimia, victims do fall within a normal weight range, but the desperate fear of gaining weight causes them to continue this abnormal behavior. This disorder can also result in electrolyte imbalance, nutritional deficiencies, gastrointestinal and oral or tooth related problems. Ultimately, their teeth begin to rot out from being continually bathed in regurgitated stomach acid, and it is the physical evidence of bulimia that is often the key to diagnosis. Like Anorexia, Bulimia can ultimately lead to the premature death of its victims.

Other mental illnesses, such as anxiety, depression, obsessive behavior and substance abuse can and usually do co-exist in patients with eating disorders. So, if your child is hiding food, eating much more or less than usual and talking a great deal about feeling fat, it’s time to start thinking about Anorexia. If on the other hand, she goes to the bathroom after dinner and runs the water while she’s there, she may be a Bulimic.

Parents should be watchful for signs of eating disorders. Children who eat sparsely or who continually skip meals, or kids who appear to eat normally but have extreme dental issues should probably be seen by a physician to rule out other illnesses prior to a visit with a therapist. However, for patients with eating disorders, psychologists report very positive results using CBT to turn the tide on these potentially lethal mental illnesses.

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If you teenager is displaying symptoms of low self esteem or eating disorders, author Stephen Daniels highly recommends the expertise of New York City cognitive therapy for treatment of emotion regulation problems. The counselors there specialize in the use of Cognitive Behavior Therapy with their patients.

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