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How we help teenagers find themselves

Posted Feb 10 2009 10:11am
Reading this: How Teenagers Find Themselves, I cannot but think of the interpersonal difficulties and dysfunctional self-perceptions of eating disorders - and how little we can spare full brain health during development.

People who have never really heard of eating disorders have no trouble believing that undereating, bingeing, and purging all cause brain damage. But it is for some reason hard to get that conversation going with people inside the ED world. When I talk to people about this, people without pre-conceived and hardened notions of the meaning of an eating disorder, it is an easy sell: the general public believes that too little Vitamin C causes scurvy and they'll take a Vitamin B supplement if you suggest too little B can cause depression.

It is obvious to most people that skipping meals and undereating is a hardship when it comes to theoretical impoverished children, and everyone understands that the gaunt features of an AIDS patient are not a sign of healthy eating.

So why the disconnect with eating disorders? Why is a teenager eating half of his nutritional requirements not expected to be mentally unwell? Why does it take visible weight loss to signal a need to intervene?

Eating disorder patients need food to repair the brain damage they suffer. And it is brain damage, just like a concussion or a loss of oxygen causes brain damage.
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