Developing self esteem in teens

Developing self esteem in teens is the best way to prevent teenagers from falling prey to eating disorders. At their core, eating disorders involve distorted, self-critical attitudes. It’s these negative thoughts and feelings that fuel the damaging behaviors.

Eating disorders involve extreme disturbances in eating behaviors — following rigid diets, gorging on food in secret, throwing up after meals, obsessively counting calories.

Purging is used to combat feelings of helplessness and self-loathing.

Over time, people with eating disorders lose the ability to see themselves objectively and obsessions over food and weight come to dominate everything else in life.As a recovered anorexic I know that recovery has little to do with food, and everything to do with self-esteem.

Food is simply the tool the anorexic, bulimic or binge eater uses to deal with uncomfortable or painful emotions. Restricting food is used to feel in control. Overeating temporarily soothes sadness, anger, or loneliness.

Although there are many ways of developing self esteem in teens, some of them not always obvious. It's hard to believe sometimes, but even in this age of technology, teenagers still crave the company and affection of their parents.

They often want it to be shown in the simplest of ways - watching movies together, going for walks, generally just spending quality time together.

In our money oriented society, parents can often feel that to please their children they have to spend lots of money, but that's not actually the case.

Prevention is better than cure. Developing self esteem in teens and also in our children when they are young can only have positive consequences.

With high self esteem it is far easier to live a healthy and productive life, free from worry about what others think. Those who have high self esteem, negative influences, including those of the media, have far less impact.  The belief that eating disorders may be prevented by concentrating on building self esteem may go against the psychiatric grain.

According to some psychiatric lines of thought, some people are born with a natural tendency towards eating disorders.

I believe these theories to be rather static in nature, giving both sufferers and their families the impression that there is something intrinsically 'wrong' with them.

Assertions such as this:Certain personality traits are common in people with eating disorders, which include:

* low self-esteem
* perfectionism
* a need to please others
* mood problems, especially depression
* mental health problems such as disruptive rituals - for more information please see the separate BUPA factsheet, Obsessive-compulsive disorder.

An eating disorder may bring a sense of control and achievement to certain people with these personality traits. (BUPA)

are static in the sense that they imply that there is something 'fixed' about the person suffering and that he or she is somehow destined to develop an eating disorder.

I believe that this kind of conclusion is unhelpful because it does not allow the sufferer or their loved ones to have any hope for change.

Given a certain set of circumstances, anybody can develop such 'personality traits.'

Nobody's personality is fixed, and nobody has a personality trait of low self-esteem - assertions like these are nonsensical.

Self-esteem - knowing how to gain and build it is a skill. Like all skills it needs to be learned. The best time for this is in childhood.

I really believe that if we all, as a society, concentrate on ways of developing self esteem in teens, in ourselves, and in young children too, that we can combat eating disorders once and for all.

If your child or anyone you know is suffering from an eating disorder, they do need a lot of love and support. But they also need professional help. I recovered with cognitive behavioral therapy. I can't recommend it highly enough.

Our children need to know how much we love them, and it's really important that this is shown in tangible ways.

Any quality time spent that revolves around nurture - physical, spiritual or emotional - is time well spent, and will help your child to focus on the bonds between you, taking his/her mind off the preoccupation with food, weight or anything else negative or non productive.

Activities such as sport, watching movies together, and tactile pursuits which involve intimacy on both parts, such as massage, or even learning reflexology or aromatherapy together, can be very helpful as they focus on the body in view of it's relation to the whole person, and it's need for nurture.To read more about alternative therapies, and how they may help in developing self esteem in teens, please click the link on the nav bar.

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