Anorexia Nervosa in Adolescence: Poor Body Image and Low Self-Esteem
By Pauline El Kallassi Mansour | 26 Jul 2013 | ADOLESCENT ISSUES
Adolescents are usually preoccupied with their body appearance and are sometimes easily disappointed if they find any imperfection in their figure. They become self-conscious of their body especially with the onset of puberty. In extreme cases such as Anorexia Nervosa, adolescents are purposefully restricting their food intake and starving themselves. They experience great fear of gaining weight and are constantly obsessed with food and calories. They continuously view themselves as fat even if they are thin.

Anorexia is a type of eating disorder that affects adolescents especially girls but is not only restricted to this age category. Anorexia is not about food or dieting even if it seems so at the start.

 The anorexic adolescents are individuals who are suffering deep inside.  They have very low-self-esteem and poor body image. They do not approve of how they look and constantly criticize themselves. They compare themselves to others and constantly feel that they are not thin enough. Some thoughts they have:  “I am not good enough”, “I am not beautiful enough”, “I do not like the way I look in the mirror” etc…

They have negative attitudes towards themselves. They hate their bodies and hate themselves.  Anorexia, in summary, is a disease of self-hatred.

Most importantly, anorexia is a coping mechanism which adolescents use to control their emotional pain and all those negative feelings they have towards themselves. They try to control their inner pain, low body image, and self-hatred by controlling what they eat and how they eat. They feel as if they do not have control over their life. The only thing they have control of is their body.

They believe that they will not be loved if they do not lose weight. They have a deep need to fit in with others, but at the same time they feel lonely and isolate themselves; since they are unable to accept themselves as they are. Most anorexics suffer from depression and anxiety.

Parents need to be very careful in dealing with their anorexic adolescent. Shaming and criticizing your adolescents should be avoided. Pressuring the adolescent will make the situation worse. Parents need to be very understanding and empathic. They need to find ways to increase their adolescent’s self-esteem on different levels. Positive communication and expression of love and affection help the adolescents feel that that they are loved for who they are no matter what they are suffering of.

Parents can encourage the adolescent to seek psychotherapy in a very non-judgmental way. Psychotherapy helps the adolescents find healthier ways to cope with their painful emotions and accept and love themselves for who they are.

This condition, if left untreated, can be very dangerous and deadly.  In severe case of weight losses, medical hospitalization is required before psychotherapy. Nonetheless, parents need to communicate at all times their support and compassion no matter how hard the recovery process is. 

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