“Is my problem bad enough to require therapy?” That’s the question I recently got from HealthyGirl.org reader Katie, 16. Can you guess what my answer’s gonna be? Please read on, and weigh in with your own.
How sad or out of control do you have to feel to deserve help?
Q: Lately I’ve been wondering if my problems with eating are severe enough to require therapy. I go back and forth, one day I will feel overwhelmed and a strong desire to get help, but by the next day I’ll have convinced myself that I’m fine.
I went into a phase this fall/winter where I felt pretty depressed, and my eating patterns became more disarrayed. Out of guilt I began to restrict more heavily during the day, and eat more at night. I ended up purging a few times. Recently, I’ve been able to turn around the bingeing a little. I still will eat more than necessary if I’m feeling overwhelmed, but it doesn’t go as far as it used to
I still obsess over calories, restrict during the day. But at the end of the day, I’m getting a healthy amount of calories. I’m not sure if my behaviors are enough to warrant treatment; however, I wonder if I should get help for the emotional/internal aspects of all this.
I don’t think my mindset is good, and this possible disorder plays with my emotions. I’m struggling to get schoolwork done and I have less patience with people. I’m afraid to tell my parents. And while I sometimes want to change all this, I’m afraid to let go of my obsession. I feel so successful when I’ve restricted my food intake (even though I usually end up counteracting that with bingeing).
Sometimes I just feel like this is all an exaggeration somehow, that I don’t really have a problem and maybe my words are too strong when explaining this. So I would love to hear your opinion, if possible. —Katie
A: Hi Katie—first, let me just tell you that you’re brave for reaching out. Second, let me just tell you: It’s NOT an exaggeration! Just because you are not on the edge of death from starvation or obestiy doesn’t mean you don’t deserve help to recover from a food problem.
Let me say your own words back to you and you tell me: You said you felt “pretty depressed,” that you “obsess” over food and calories, you’ve purged and you don’t think your “mindset is good.” All of that makes me believe strongly that food and eating issues are negatively impacting your life. You even said yourself that you’re struggling to get schoolwork done and are feeling moody toward people.
What would you tell a friend who admitted all of these things to you? Wouldn’t you lovingly tell her that she deserves to feel better? That she deserves to get help so that she can be happier and healthier and start getting sane about food? YES! I’m not a therapist, but from what you describe, there is an official name for food issues like yours: eating disorders not otherwise specified
(EDNOS). It’s a real thing, with a real entry in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual
of Mental Disorders.
Now, let me open it up to the rest of the HealthyGirl.org community: Have you ever felt like Katie, that you were making too big a deal out of your food issues and should just shake them off? How did you realize that it really was important and worth tackling? xo…Sunny
For a new food-sanity or body-sanity tip every day, follow @hlthygrl on Twitter!