Free Parent Workshop: How to Communicate With Your Teen

Do you feel like it’s difficult to communicate with your teen? 

Do they roll their eyes, or give you an attitude whenever you try to talk to them? 

Is it hard to be on the same page and have a dialog without anger or frustration being in charge? 

Do you want to improve the quality of your ability to discuss things with your teen? Then join us for a free parent workshop on How to Communicate with Your Teen.

This workshop will be led by:

Jason Ellis, MA-Pastoral Services
Behavioral Health Paraprofessional

Jason has spent the last 30 years in youth ministry in Arizona and Oregon. He has a heart for young people and families and longs to see them living life to the fullest. He spends time in the outdoors as often as possible, has a recent growing love of pickleball and makes amazing pizza in his wood fired pizza oven at home. 

Jason is married, has 3 kids and is currently enrolled in the MFT program at the Phoenix extension of the Fuller campus. Jason has spent the last three decades working with teenagers and raising three of his own.

The workshop is free, but seats are limited. 

Text 602-999-8389 to confirm your attendance.

Now Hiring: Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner or Psychiatrist

Doorways LLC. is a faith-based counseling organization in Phoenix, Arizona, that provides comprehensive outpatient treatment focused exclusively on 13-25-year olds and their families.

Doorways provides a supportive, family-focused environment, flexible schedule, competitive salary and benefits, and a fun place to work!

Providers at Doorways specialize in treatment for eating disorders, mood disorders, anxiety/OCD, substance abuse, depression, ADD/ADHD, self-harm, suicide prevention, and family counseling.

Minimum Qualifications:

  • Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Certification with current unrestricted license from the Arizona State Board of Nursing or Doctor of Medicine or Osteopathic Medicine with current unrestricted license from the Arizona State Board of Medical Examiners,
  • Current DEA License, NPI Number,
  • Three or more years’ experience in the delivery of mental health treatment for adolescents and young adults,
  • Current CPR & First Aid Certifications
  • Empaneled with at least one major insurance carrier in Arizona preferred.
  • Able to support a faith-based, holistic, integrated model of treatment
  • Energetic and passionate regarding working with the adolescent and young adult population
  • Possess excellent interpersonal skills and the desire to grow with a rapidly expanding practice
  • Team player willing to work with a multidisciplinary team of professionals in treatment planning and provision of care 

Responsibilities will include:

  • Psychiatric evaluations and medication management of patients
  • Prescribe, direct, and administer psychotherapeutic treatments and/or medications to treat mental, emotional, or behavioral disorders.
  • Collaborate with our team of professionals for best care practices in the treatment of adolescents, young adults and their families.

If this position is of interest to you, let’s talk! Please contact Jan Hamilton, PMHNP-BC, Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner, at Doorways LLC. hr@doorwaysarizona.com

 

What To Do When Your Teen Is the Mean Teen

Back in 2004, Tina Fey had no notion that the subject of the movie Mean Girls would become more timely today than it was back then. “It’s just sort of unfortunate that it does,” the Emmy-winning writer and actress said at the recent opening night celebration for her Broadway adaptation of the movie. Although the movie is a comedy, it depicts the bullying mentality of high school girl cliques and the negative effects on the self-esteem of victims. The reason the topic is even more relevant today is because of social media.

Teens Live Their Lives Online

If you have a teen who spends a lot of time online, you worry about what she may be doing or experiencing. You’re probably aware of a problem known as cyberbullying, and you hope that your teen is not on the receiving end of an online bully. However, what if it turns out that your daughter is the “mean girl,” the one doing the bullying? What do you do? The following provides some helpful information and advice.

How Many Teens are Cyberbullies?

In today’s social media environment, cyberbullying is more common than you would like to think. The Cyberbullying Research Center reviewed twenty-seven papers on cyberbullying published in peer-reviewed journals and concluded that, although it’s difficult to come up with an exact figure, about 18% of teens admit to having engaged in cyberbullying. In case you believe that only girls engage in cyberbullying, think again. A survey by a UK think tank revealed that more teen boys than teen girls admit to having engaged in cyberbullying activity.

How Do I Know if my Teen is a Cyberbully?

You can’t address the problem of cyberbullying if you don’t know that it’s going on. If the following signs apply to your adolescent, it may be an indication that they’re engaging in online bullying.

  • They have several social networking accounts on multiple sites.
  • They spend long hours online, perhaps when everyone else is asleep.
  • They quickly hide their mobile device or change the screen on their laptop when you approach.
  • You overhear them insulting or making snarky remarks about another teen.
  • It doesn’t seem to bother them if their words or actions hurt others.
  • They spend time with friends whom you think behave in ways that are mean or uncaring.

Why do Teens Engage in Cyberbullying?

Understanding the reasons why your teen may be an online “mean girl” or “mean boy” is the first step in understanding why this is happening. So, here are some reasons why teenagers bully others in cyberspace.

  • Boredom – Cyberbullying can be a way to inject excitement, drama, and entertainment into an adolescent’s life.
  • Peer pressure – Teens want to fit in and not appear uncool or the odd one out.
  • Status – Cyberbullying can give the perpetrator a feeling of power and status.
  • No sense of harm – An adolescent may not see that they’re doing anything wrong and may regard cyberbullying as a kind of joke.
  • Retribution – A teen might believe that another teen deserves the bullying because they think the victim is stuck up or has stolen someone’s boyfriend or girlfriend.
  • Helplessness – If a teen has been a victim of cyberbullying, they may begin bullying as a defensive behavior.
  • Invincibility – Adolescents believe that because the bullying is online, they won’t get caught. And, they may resort to using anonymous identities to avoid detection.

What to do if Your Teen is a Cyberbully

It can be very upsetting to discover that your adolescent is cyberbullying others. After you’ve given yourself a chance to calm down, prepare yourself to talk to your teen about their actions. Arm yourself with proof that they have been cyberbullying (if you can) and do some research so that you can cite cases where online bullying has led to tragic results.

Talk to Your Teen About Cyberbullying

  • Inform your teenager that you are aware of the cyberbullying. Give them a chance to tell you exactly what they’ve been doing and to what extent. If they deny it, provide evidence if you have any.
  • Try to understand why your adolescent is doing this. Are they attempting to fit in with peers, trying to be more popular, working off feelings of anger about something (divorce or a home move for example), or seeking revenge for being bullied themselves?
  • Explain that this behavior is unacceptable and has to stop. Your teen might say that they were ‘just joking around,’ so try to make them aware that what’s funny to one person might be devastating to another.
  • Attempt to elicit empathy by asking them how they’d feel if someone was doing the same things to them or to someone they love.
  • Let them know that cyberbullying is a serious offense that could lead to trouble with school authorities or even the police.

How to Take Action Against Cyberbullying

  • Monitor your teen’s electronic devices and limit the amount of time they spend online. Consider installing monitoring software on their electronics.
  • If the cyberbullying continues, take away their devices for a period of time.
  • Encourage them to remove hurtful messages, videos, or photos that they have posted.
  • Set up some simple social-media guidelines. For instance, the one-minute rule – before posting something, walk away for a minute and think about whether the post may be hurtful.
  • If their current friends have also been part of the bullying, try to urge your teen to spend less time with them.
  • Consider encouraging them to sincerely apologize to anyone they may have hurt.

Where Can I Get Outside Help for my Teen in Arizona?

An adolescent who has hurt someone else by engaging in cyberbullying needs parental support. If you have discovered that your teen is an online “mean girl” or “mean boy” and it seems too much for you to cope with alone, speak to one of Doorways teen counselors. Our professionals are trained to understand the underlying emotional issues that cause behaviors such as cyberbullying. Make an appointment today for a free, no-obligation consultation.

Does My Teen Have PTSD?

PTSD is the acronym for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Beginning in 2010, Congress named June 27th as PTSD Awareness Day. What’s more, a Senate resolution designated the entire month of June as National PTSD Awareness Month. All of this attention on PTSD is aimed at fostering a greater understanding of this mental condition, how to recognize its symptoms and how to obtain help for sufferers.

What Exactly is PTSD?

Almost everyone will have painful memories after experiencing a traumatic event. For most people, these memories will gradually become less painful over time. However, for others ‘time does not heal all wounds’ as the saying goes. The memories, thoughts, and feelings connected to the traumatic event don’t go away. If these reactions end up disrupting the individual’s everyday life, then PTSD is probably present.

Why Would a Teen Develop PTSD?

Everyone has heard about veterans suffering from PTSD. However, most people don’t know that PTSD can also afflict teens. An NPR program stated that, according to the National Survey of Adolescents, approximately 4% of teenage boys and 6% of teenage girls meet the clinical definition of PTSD. A teen may develop PTSD as a result of being directly involved in or witnessing a serious traumatic event such as:

  • A car accident.
  • A natural disaster (earthquake, hurricane, flood, fire).
  • A violent crime (kidnapping; physical assault; assault or murder of a parent, loved one, or close friend).
  • The suicide of a family member or friend.
  • Physical or sexual abuse.
  • Major surgery and/or extensive hospitalization – e.g., bone marrow transplant, severe burns.

An Example of a Teen with PTSD

Zach is a fourteen-year-old boy who had lots of friends. However, he began to be reluctant to go to school, stayed home after school, and dropped the activities that he loved like soccer and karate lessons. Moreover, he would call his mom many times whenever she left the house.

  • Zach’s Trauma: All of Zach’s problems arose after a trauma he experienced. While driving to the mall with his mom, a car ran a red light and hit the side of their car which spun around several times and hit a tree. Luckily, neither Zach nor his mom was injured, but the other driver suffered a severe head wound. Zach could not get thoughts of the accident and the image of the injured man with blood trickling down his face out of his head. He also has nightmares about car crashes.
  • Zach is Now Terrified of Cars: Zach is scared of being in a car and worries about being hit by one when going outside. When he does leave the house, he wants his mom to accompany him, and becomes extremely anxious when she is out of his sight. He reacts nervously when he hears the sound of a car horn or if he spots a news article about a car accident.

What Can I do to Help my Teen with PTSD?

If your teen has experienced a traumatic event, your first instinct might be to give them time and space alone to deal with what happened. However, this might be misinterpreted you don’t care or even that you are blaming your teen for their reactions to the traumatic event. Here are some helpful suggestions on what can help.

  • Provide support – The most important thing you can do is provide lots of love, support, and acceptance of your teen’s difficulties.
  • Encourage talk – Try to get your teen to talk to you about their feelings and explain that anxiety with respect to a traumatic event is a normal response.
  • Give reassurance – If your teen is experiencing scary symptoms like nightmares, flashbacks, or vivid memories of the trauma, reassure your teen that they are not going crazy.
  • Encourage return to daily routines – Do your best to get your teen to go back to school within a few days of the traumatic event (if possible) and to resume their usual habits. This includes getting up and going to bed at their regular times, and participating in their usual school or community activities.
  • Help them face their fears – It doesn’t help to be overprotective. For example, if your teen has been in a car accident, they might refuse to get into a car. However, this fear of cars will not disappear on its own. It could even get worse over time if you don’t gradually encourage them to get back in a car. Be generous with praise after each attempt to overcome the fear.

Where Can I Get Help for my Teen’s PTSD in Arizona?

In spite of your best efforts to manage your teen’s PTSD, you may feel totally overwhelmed and need the help of experts. Doorways is here to give you all the help and advice you need. Our counselors are trained to deal with all kinds of anxiety disorders including PTSD. An initial consultation with us is absolutely free, so make an appointment today.

Helping Teens to Breathe Easier Without Tobacco

World No Tobacco Day has taken place every May 31st since 1987. This particular awareness day is sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO) and aims to highlight the health risks associated with the use of tobacco and to encourage governments to adopt effective anti-tobacco policies.

Tobacco and Teens

The bottom line is that tobacco in any type of product is harmful to the developing brain of a teen and can lead to serious health problems. The following is a discussion of the types of tobacco products that teens may be using.

Cigarettes

The smoke inhaled from a lit cigarette contains over 7,000 different chemicals, more than 70 of which have been linked to cancer. There is no scientific proof that cigarettes advertised as “additive-free,” “organic,” or “all-natural,” are any safer than regular cigarettes. Teens who begin smoking in high school are much more likely to still be smoking in adulthood. Read this Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report on the health effects of cigarette smoking.

Smokeless Tobacco

Tobacco does not have to be burned. Smokeless tobacco types include chewing tobacco, dip, snuff, oral tobacco, and spit or spitting tobacco. All of these tobacco products have high levels of toxic chemicals and cancer-causing substances. Smokeless tobacco users have a high risk of developing mouth and throat cancer. Teens who use smokeless tobacco may become addicted to nicotine and are more likely to become cigarette smokers. Click here for a CDC report on the health risks of smokeless tobacco.

Hookah Tobacco

Hookah tobacco is smoked in a hookah water pipe and is usually flavored. Other names for hookah tobacco are argileh, goza, hubble-bubble, maassel, narghile, and shisha. Just because the smoke from the hookah is passed through water doesn’t make it safe. Hookah smoke contains significant amounts of carbon monoxide and chemical substances that are known to cause bladder, lung, and mouth cancers. Studies of college students have found rising rates of hookah use among them. Here is a CDC report on the dangers of hookah smoking.

E-Cigarettes

E-cigarettes work by heating a liquid that turns into an aerosol vapor inhaled by the user. The vapor from e-cigarettes contains a mixture of harmful chemicals that are unsafe to breathe. Nicotine is also present in many e-cigarettes. The use of e-cigarettes among high school students has grown dramatically and more of them are using e-cigarettes rather than regular cigarettes. Read this message from the U.S. Surgeon General on the risks of using e-cigarettes.

Cigars and Cigarillos

A cigar consists of tobacco wrapped in leaf tobacco. Cigars come in a variety of sizes ranging from small filtered cigars or cigarillos to large premium cigars. In comparison to cigarette tobacco, cigar tobacco contains higher levels of some cancer-causing chemicals. Cigar smokers don’t need to fully inhale to be exposed to nicotine which can also be absorbed through the lips and fingers. Marketers are targeting teens with small cigars enhanced with enticing flavors such as candy apple or chocolate. Here is a report from the National Cancer Institute on the dangers of cigar smoking.

Teen Anti-Tobacco Campaign Makes Some Progress

The American Lung Association (ALA) reports a decline from 25.3% to 20.2% in tobacco use among high school students in 2015-2016 (based on research carried out by the CDC). This decrease demonstrates that campaigns to reduce tobacco use among teens can make a difference. However, more work is needed as over 20% of U.S. teens are still using at least one tobacco product.

The Not On Tobacco (N-O-T) Program

N-O-T is an ALA program to promote cessation of smoking among teens. It’s a ten-week program where teen participants learn to gain insights into why they smoke, and are provided with information on healthy options to stop tobacco use and where to find support when they try to quit.

N-O-T Really Works

N-O-T is a structured approach to helping teens to quit smoking and is based on social cognitive theory. The N-O-T program has proven to be feasible and effective, and has been selected as a model program by the National Registry of Effective Programs (NREP).

Talk to Your Teen About the Risks of All Tobacco Products

Having conversations with your teen about the risks of using any tobacco product will help them not to begin use in the first place or help them to quit if they are already experimenting. And, think about contacting the Youth Tobacco Prevention program in Maricopa County to find out about tobacco cessation programs in your area.

Need Help With Your Teen?

Doorways wants your teen to be tobacco-free but also free from all major problems that can affect teens. So, if you are having a problem with your teen and need professional help, make an appointment with us for a no-obligation, no-charge consultation. Treating substance abuse (such as tobacco abuse) is not a Doorways specialty, but we can refer you to professionals who can help you and your teen.

How Crafting Can Help Your Teen

In 1994, the Craft & Hobby Association (CHA) “crafted” the wonderful month called Craft Month. CHA has since changed its name to the Association For Creative Industries (AFCI). AFCI is committed to an overarching vision of enriching people’s lives through crafting and other creative activities. Since its very humble beginnings, craft month (March) has grown into a joyous international celebration by millions of craft enthusiasts who love “getting their craft on.”

Benefits of Crafting for Teens

Little kids love getting messy and making something fun. But, there’s no reason to stop being creative at the age of thirteen. Teens and young adults benefit from crafting in the following ways.

  • Helps to Create a Positive Identity – The sense of self is enhanced by the personal process of creating something.
  • Soothes Teenage Angst – Crafts can serve as mental yoga and provide teens with an activity that is mindful and calming.
  • Brings Imagination to the Fore – Crafts encourage teens to explore different creative ideas.
  • Develops Focus – To succeed at a craft requires strong focus and attention to detail.
  • Builds Confidence – Seeing a craft through from beginning to end provides a sense of pride and accomplishment.
  • Encourages Perseverance – A craft can be difficult to learn and delivers a healthy challenge to a teen.

Help Your Teen to Find Crafting Outlets

Unfortunately, arts and crafts programs are being eliminated or downsized in many schools. When young adults get to high school, they may only need one arts credit in order to graduate. Apart from pursuing a craft at home, students can often find interesting crafts programs at their local library. Take a look at what programs The American Library Association suggests libraries get involved with. Check out the libraries near you or talk to your library about setting up a crafts itinerary. Click here for a list of Arizona public libraries offering crafts programs. As well as your local library, there may be a summer camp with interesting arts and crafts programs.

Pottery Classes

Many teens enjoy pottery classes. Pottery involves more than just mixing clay, water, and other additives. It’s a craft that provides teens and young adults with a creative, relaxing outlet to make something unique. They can mold clay with just their hands, or learn to “throw” a pot or a bowl using a wheel. The resulting creation can be glazed and baked in a kiln. Check out the area where you live for pottery programs designed for teens and young adults. Here’s some help on finding pottery classes in the Phoenix area.

How do I Get My Teen Interested in a Craft?

Taking up a craft can enrich a teenager’s life. However, as I’m sure you know, it’s impossible to force a teen into a hobby. So, use some insight and gentle guidance to help your teen explore the idea of crafting and find the craft that most excites them. Asking a teen “what would you like to do?” is too vague and broad. Bring up the subject of crafting, ask your teen to think about it, and then bring the question up again later.

Don’t Turn Your Teen Off to the Idea of Crafting

Try not to go from being insightful and helpful to suffocating and nagging. Mention possible enjoyable activities, but don’t succumb to harping on them constantly. Most teens resent being pushed into things, so it may take some finesse to coax an adolescent into pursuing a craft you think they will enjoy. You could try passing along online suggestions like this one.

Be Supportive

Once a teen has expressed an interest in a craft, give them your full support and provide them with any necessary materials. If the teen needs space at home to pursue the craft, make sure there’s an area in your house where they can be creative. And, never chastise them for making a mess.

Do You Have a Teen with Issues?

We hope that your teen is involved in an engaging hobby of some sort. However, if your teen is suffering from a problem that you find difficult to cope with, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to get them involved with a craft. Whatever the issue, Doorways is here to help you and your teen or young adult. We specialize in services for those aged 13-25 in the Phoenix area. Arrange a consultation with us to see how we can help you.

Four Things I Wish Parents Knew About Pot

Currently, recreational use of marijuana is legal in eight states plus the District of Columbia, with California the latest state to pass these changes. Teens will tell you that pot is easy to obtain and that “everybody” uses it. And, a National Institute on Drug Abuse study did conclude that marijuana usage is popular among adolescents and young adults. There is a general opinion that marijuana use by young people is not harmful. However, this is very far from the truth and here’s why.

1. Marijuana Slows Adolescent Brain Development

Apart from what happens to the brain before birth, there is more significant brain development during adolescence than at any other developmental stage. The brain has a natural endocannabinoid system that has a significant part to play in brain development. This system is adversely affected by marijuana use.

2. Kids Get Really High

Adolescents have a higher ratio of cannabinoid receptors (known as CB1) in their brains than adults. The chemical component in marijuana that causes most of its psychological effects is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC binds to the CB1 receptors in a teenager’s brain and stays there longer than in an adult. While THC remains in the receptor, it blocks the processes of memory and learning. Dr. Frances Jensen is a Neuroscientist and author of The Teenage Brain. She was interviewed by Terry Gross on the NPR program Fresh Air and stated that prolonged use of marijuana between the ages of thirteen and seventeen could result in permanent brain changes.

3. Pot Today is More Potent

Studies of the average THC concentration in cannabis show that levels have been steadily rising from about four percent in 1995 to approximately 12 percent in 2014. Biological Psychiatry found that strains of marijuana are currently being grown with 17-33 percent THC, on the principle that higher THC concentration means a more profitable product. What also makes today’s pot more potent is that twenty years ago marijuana had higher levels of cannabidiol (CBD) which is non-psychoactive and responsible for the medical benefits of marijuana. But, growers are breeding it out of recreational marijuana because it prevents users from getting as high as they would without the CBD. The end result is that these higher THC levels are much more harmful to the developing adolescent brain.

4. Marijuana Can Have Long-Lasting Effects

Exposing the brain to marijuana during adolescence can slow down brain maturation and eventually cause neurobiological changes that will affect brain function in adulthood. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) published the results of a 2014 study that looked at the long-term effects of the use of marijuana during adolescence. The study concluded that early marijuana use causes adverse effects on intelligence, cognitive functioning, and emotional behavior, and increases the risk of the development of psychotic disorders. What’s more, the damage may be irreversible.

Parents, Talk to Your Kids

Based on survey results from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, seventy-one percent of high school seniors do not view “regular marijuana usage” as harmful. Many kids see (and smell) adults getting stoned at concerts, and now, just walking down the street. It’s easy to see how they might assume that pot use is just harmless fun. Even though it’s reassuring to know that most teens don’t smoke cigarettes because they understand the health dangers, it’s time to make clear to them that marijuana use is also risky. Talk with your kids regularly about the risks that marijuana poses.

Are you are worried that your teen is using marijuana regularly and don’t know what to do about it? Our specialty lies in helping families with teens and young adults, so contact us to find out how we can help.

A Counselor’s Thoughts on 13 Reasons Why

by Jan Hamilton

Jan Hamilton, Founder, Doorways Teen Counseling and Psychiatric Services Phoenix Arizona

Jan Hamilton, MS, PMHNP-BC Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner

There’s a new program on Netflix that has caused quite an uproar in the media, and in our office.

13 Reasons Why is a Netflix series about Hannah, a middle school girl who takes her own life.

Two weeks after her tragic death, a classmate named Clay finds a mysterious box on his porch. Inside the box are recordings made by Hannah — on whom Clay had a crush — in which she explains the 13 reasons why she chose to commit suicide. If Clay decides to listen to the recordings, he will find out if and how he made the list.

This intricate and heart-wrenching tale is told through Clay and Hannah’s dual narratives.

I spoke to one of our counselors, Sarah VanHolland, LPC, about this series. She is the Clinical lead therapist for our DBT Skills Intensive Outpatient Program and this show has been the topic of conversation many times in that IOP group. Here’s what Sarah said:

“The concerning aspects of the series are its glorification of suicide and its promotion of the message ‘wait until I’m gone, then they’ll be sorry’. 

The show reduces its main character to little more than what happens to her. There is no real mention of depression, genetics, her lack of coping skills, her access to support systems, or biochemistry. 

At times, the show seems to perpetuate a cycle of feeling shame and blaming others. While these issues are harmful and spread misinformation, the series does offer insights into the experiences of adolescents today. 

The show highlights the alarming rate of sexual harassment and assault, mass and instant dissemination of rumors via social media and smart phones, and the overall social climate present in many high school campuses today. 

The show is painfully accurate in its depiction of how secrets are harmful to everyone, how one person’s brokenness causes more brokenness, and that everyone is experiencing their own pain and sadness.”

My concern of course, is that students would try to follow Hannah’s example because the series, though tragic, still “romanticizes” the action of suicide and the idea of leaving a message for the survivors to teach them a lesson.

We hope that parents will talk to their teens about this program and the messages it sends. If your son or daughter are hinting about suicide in any way, you need to take it seriously. Reach out to an experienced professional to get help.

Because doing nothing is not an option.

Does My Teenager Have an Eating Disorder?

As teens mature, they become more aware of their bodies and how others view them. During these formative years, many teens begin attaching their self-worth to the size and shape of their bodies, and give significance to how other teens react to their size, weight, or physical appearance. This causes many teens, particularly teen girls, to become hypercritical of their physical appearance and burdened with thoughts that they may be too fat. Striving to be healthy through a balanced diet and exercise are great habits to instill in your teen as they grow and become more aware of their bodies. However, far too many teens today suffer from eating disorders that diminish both their physical and mental health.

Does My Teenager Have an Eating Disorder?

As a parent of a teen, it is important to understand eating disorders, know what symptoms to look for in your own teenager, and learn how to help if your teen is suffering.

The Prevalence of Eating Disorders in Teenagers

According to National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, over 30 million people suffer from some form of an eating disorder. Additionally, three percent of adolescents develop eating disorders. Eating disorders most commonly develop from ages 12-20, and once established can persist over a person’s adult lifetime as well.

The Three Most Common Types of Eating Disorders

Eating disorders can present in a myriad of ways, so it is important to understand the most common types of eating disorders, and the damages each can do to your teen’s body and mind.

The National Eating Disorders Organization outlines the three most common types of eating disorders as: Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia, and Binge Eating.

1. Anorexia Nervosa
Anorexia is a condition of self-starvation, and deprivation of food. Without eating properly, the body becomes deprived of nutrients needed for survival and forces the body to slow down vital functions. Anorexia is the leading cause of death for women 12-25.
2. Bulimia
Bulimia is the systematic habit of binging and eating in excess, and then purging that food by vomiting or other means (ie excessive exercise). Bulimia can lead to severe chemical imbalances in the body and damage the digestive tract as well as diminish the function of other vital organs.
3. Binge Eating Disorder
Binge Eating Disorder is a condition marked by frequently eating large amounts of food, and can rapidly lead to health issues such as obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

Eating Disorder Symptoms to Look Out for as a Parent

As the parent of a teenager, it is important to be aware of what indicators or symptoms your teen might exhibit if he or she is suffering from an eating disorder. The symptoms can vary depending on the type of disorder, but the Mayo Clinic identifies these symptoms in correlation to the three most common types:

• Distorted body image
• Intense fear of weight gain
• Abnormally low body weight (though teens with normal or above average weights can also suffer from disorders)
• Going to the bathroom immediately after eating a meal
• Vomiting after eating meals
• Excessive calorie counting or exercise
• Use of laxatives or diet pills
• Eating very quickly or in excess
• Eating alone or in hiding

How to Help Your Teen if You Suspect an Eating Disorder

If you suspect that your teenager is suffering from an eating disorder, then it is important for their health and safety to intervene and help them. Because eating disorders are often coupled with shame, fear, or depression, your teen may not actively seek help from anyone. If you notice any concerning symptoms, you should speak to your teen. Be loving, supportive, and talk about your concerns in terms of their health, not how they look or how much they weigh. It may also be a good idea to examine your own relationship with food, and make sure you are promoting healthy living for both yourself and your family members.

Eating disorders often develop during adolescence, but can last into adulthood if they are not treated and managed effectively as soon as possible. If your teen is exhibiting symptoms of an eating disorder that continue even after you’ve begun attempts to help, then it is highly recommended that you seek the help of a therapist or doctor who specializes in teen eating disorders. They can help you and your family forge a path to a long, healthy, happy life that is not controlled by food or eating disorders.