When Your Kid Is Having a Tough Time of It
During the past two weeks, I had two parents connect with me to get help for their kids with eating disorders. I spent a lot of time with one of them answering her questions as she kept bringing up more issues that her 20-year-old son was dealing with currently. However, it was clear to her that his problems started at age 4 with obsessive-compulsive behaviors. She went into many of the losses he had starting when he was 4-years-old having to leave his home with her because of the strange and scary behavior of his father, for their safety. She went on to explain many other issues that came to be problematic to her son as he grew up. With this information, I explained to her why her son was having so many difficulties among which was his shutting down all his emotions. We set up a time for a Detailed Personal History so I could get a better idea of what was necessary to help her son to heal from all the trauma he had experienced and to help him to let go of his eating disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive behavior of which his eating disorder was one example, and his depression. During the hour-plus that it took to do the Detailed Personal History he could not remember anything of his life, not even from the last couple of days, everything was safely repressed. His mom had asked him to receive the help but was uncertain he would do the work, and yet, he did show up and did the best he could in the very depressed state that he was in. Now, after all of this, she is unwilling to commit to getting the work done leaving her kid in limbo even though he did his part of the deal. She is concerned with paying for rehab of the house she just bought for them so that he could have what he wanted, without realizing that what he wants so badly is something that will continue to feed into his eating disorder as males do eating disorders differently than women. Males have what is known as muscle dysphoria so working out and building large muscles along with perfect 6-pack abs is their obsession, overworking out with ever greater risks to their health to do anything that they feel is necessary to grow those muscles. Because her son is obsessing over getting equipment to work out with so that he can be happy dropping the weight that has made him so unhappy, is the last thing that this kid needs — at least at the moment.
The problem with all of this, of course, is that males with anorexia have ‘muscle dysmorphia,’ meaning that no matter how large muscles they build, the muscles will never be seen in a realistic manner. This is similar to anorexic women who see their skeletal forms as being fat even though they are literally wasting away from eating less and less food, restricting what they eat more strictly as their illness progresses.
What this kid needs first is the help to overcome his addiction to building muscles gain a healthy attitude toward dropping his extra weight in a healthy manner and then building muscle again in a healthy manner if that is something that he still wants to do once his eating disorder and the addiction to muscle building is gone.
I bring this situation up for two reasons:
- As a parent, it is up to you to help your kid to receive the help that they need as you are their legal guardian and are legally responsible for your kid’s safety. If you have realized there is a problem either through your observation or your kid telling you that they are having a hard time functioning it is best to get them that help.
- If as a parent you have asked your kid to get the help, and in some cases, as was the case in the above situation, you have gone as far into the process as what occurred there, the least you can do is follow through on your end of the deal instead of making excuses as to why it is impossible to make that happen. The reality is that any sort of therapeutic help is going to cost money even if it is a weekly copay that goes on endlessly or the remainder of whatever your insurance will not cover of the care given.
When it comes to getting help for a severely depressed eating disordered college-aged kid, best to get that help before your kid spirals into a state where irreversible damage is done to their body or worse, where the depression takes over and death is knocking at their door. This is not an illness that one can afford to ‘wait’ to get help on as it is the #1 killer of kids from the ages of 12–24. Here are some statistics to put these numbers into perspective:
According to NEDA (National Eating Disorders Association)
10 Million males will suffer from eating disorders this year.
33% of adolescent males use unhealthy weight control behaviors
43% of men are dissatisfied with their bodies
Gay Males with eating disorders:
Are 5% of the general population 42% of males self-identify as gay.
Sadly, where males have eating disorders there are few places for them to even receive the care because the mental health professionals view eating disorders as a problem that only females have, to the point where there is no mention of males having eating disorders mentioned in the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual that the licensed mental health professionals use for diagnosing mental illness. As a result, when a male with eating disorders goes to find a program to help them, they find that care is only offered to females. This very fact makes the whole illness even more stigmatized for males, making it more difficult for them to even accept the fact that they have the disorder. So having them reach out for help is a very hard thing for them to do in the first place. It adds insult to injury when they cannot even find a program that is open for them to receive the help they have taken so long to accept that they need because their thinking and behavior have gotten so out of control that they know they need to receive treatment.
3. I find so many questions on Quora with kids stating flat out that they have asked their parents to help them get therapy only to have their parents dismiss their request saying that there is nothing wrong with them. This happens to males with eating disorders in their doctor’s office because they look ‘healthy’ because of their bodily form looking healthy. Yet they have these thoughts of self-loathing running around in their heads telling them that they are worthless because they are fat and gross as human beings. Those compulsive thoughts lead them to over-working out which can and often does mean that there is an abuse of steroids, protein powders, and other self-harming habits to help them achieve their goal of the ‘perfect’ male body. The point is that even the medical professionals downplay the problem leaving the male anorexic and bulimic dismissed even though they made it clear that they were having enough emotional pain to even ask for help.
If we are going to lessen the number of kids dying from eating disorders we best open our ears and take their concerns seriously instead of believing we have any idea what is truly going on for them. Because, it takes everything that they have to come forward in acknowledging that they even have a problem, never mind asking for help to resolve it.
In fact, I would say that we adults have done our kids a great disservice in many ways by continuing to allow the powers that be to bring fear into our lives every day with the garbage that is on the news which has nothing to do with news as there are rarely reporters on the ground to get the facts these days, this costing too much money and going against whatever agenda the politicians have for the citizens of the country at that moment in time. Many adults are fearful of losing their jobs thanks to the crazy situation we find ourselves in which has only made things a thousand times worse than during the height of mergers and acquisitions of one company of another getting rid of duplicate roles in the company. and the worst of all, being plagued with the garbage called ‘food’ which has no nutrients given the commercial interests from the factory farms that have greatly abused the use of insecticides, herbicides, GMO technology, antibiotics, and GMO feed in the livestock. All of this instead of allowing the livestock to eat the natural food their bodies require to be healthy food for us humans. The lack of nutrition in the food that we eat is a huge factor in so many of the emotional and physical problems we see not only in our kids but in the many adults who are suffering from inflammation, type 2 diabetes, and autoimmune illnesses. It is one thing for an adult to make terrible dietary decisions, it is quite another to force one’s kids to eat the same crap and expect them to be healthy.
I agree that there are many important concerns brought to light here which need a lot more thought than the average person is giving them. The question that I have for you is what are you doing about being a healthier person yourself first? And, what are you willing to do to truly hear the concerns and even fears that your kid is bringing to you regarding their unhappiness, feelings of self-loathing, anxiety, or depression? Because, all of these situations are on a huge upward swing since all the restrictions from COVID, not being able to see their friends in school or if they can, doing so through masks which are uncomfortable and do not allow for seeing the smiles that are on their friends’ faces. It is all very confusing, stifling, and upsetting to your kid. Even more so than you because they have no idea why these things are being forced on them.
Until we are willing to take a stand for our kids, the terrible statistics of suicide, and mass murders in the US are going to continue because it starts with us taking our kids' concerns at face value and doing everything in our power to get them the help they are not just requesting, but NEEDING to become contented, productive individuals that they have every right to be.
As a professional in mental health for the past 30 years, I have helped many kids to overcome depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive thinking, eating disorders, and more. In the last 20 years of practice as a hypnotist and master practitioner of neuro-linguistic programming, I have been able to help over a thousand kids to overcome these problems without medication, without being in formal programs that take away their sovereignty over their lives, teaching them how to understand the necessity of great nutrition, letting go of the addictive aspects in those who have them, and creating healthy boundaries as the work toward creating their compelling futures, based on what is appropriate for their stage in life. Because we can only help them to become autonomous individuals by teaching them how to be this way through the work we do together. Helping them to aspire to be the person that they can be and indeed want to be once they are given the opportunity to think in a much more visionary fashion of the possibilities that await them.
NOTE: If you would like more information on my program to help anorexic males please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org and in the subject line put: Looking for help for males with eating disorders.