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Counseling for Eating Disorders - How to Help Children who are Binge Eaters

written by: micsan07 • edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom • updated: 9/29/2010

Counseling children with binge eating disorder needs to be approached with care. A multiple approached treatment plan of family counseling and individual psychotherapy will be carefully constructed by a professional who will ensure that nutritional needs are also met.

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    Counseling for Eating Disorders - How to Help Children who are Binge Eaters

    Binge eating behaviors are no different in children than they are in adults. They will often overeat when alone or at nighttime. They sometimes hoard food and frequently indulge in secretive behaviors.

    Parents, or adults, may notice that compulsive eating normally happens in response to strong emotional stressors like peer pressure, stress at school because of poor performance, conflicts with siblings or other family members, and is commonly accompanied by negative feelings like frustration, disgust, and shame.

    Counseling children with binge eating disorder will involve multiple approaches that include nutritionists, psychiatrists, and other specialists.

    Also commonly referred to as compulsive overeating, binge eating disorder can be treated successfully with therapy. This treatment can teach children how to combat the urge to overeat and, over time, exchange bad eating habits with good eating habits. Positive thinking helps to develop self esteem which in turn will assist in overcoming the eating disorder.

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    Eating Disorder Therapies

    Once diagnosed with binge eating disorder, a child will have a specific treatment plan built for them by an eating disorder professional. Family therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy, commonly referred to as CBT, are normal treatments assigned to counseling children with binge eating disorder.

    The whole family is included in a family therapy approach. Family dynamics may be discussed and ways to reduce stress within the family structure may be sought.

    CBT helps children change negative thoughts and related behaviors into positive life changing thoughts and feelings that encourage self confidence and self esteem. Cognitive behavior therapy will also assist children in learning techniques that will help them change their eating habits and how to better deal with their stress.

    Because binge eating behaviors often lead to being overweight or obese, professionals may need to include nutritionists or dietitians in the treatment process to enable children to lose excess weight.

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    Some Self Help Tips

    Children may be taught techniques, tricks, and tips that will help them develop feelings of control, self confidence, and positive thoughts. Some of these may be incorporated into the therapy.

    • Identify feelings - Is it boredom, unhappiness, or actual hunger that causes the overeating
    • Write down what is eaten and when in a food diary or journal - ask an adult to check it
    • Ask whoever buys the groceries to stock up on a favorite fruit, raw vegetable, or fruity yogurt and to not purchase any junk food - eating more of these foods won't compromise a diet plan
    • Ask school or neighborhood friends to help with activity, especially around meal times
    • Eat when family members are around - meals shared with others are usually eaten slower giving the body time to tell the brain that the body is full
    • Join a club or hobby that encourages activity, i.e. biking, skateboarding, soccer, etc.
    • Make a "mad" or "unhappy" list - list all the things that make you mad or unhappy on a piece of paper and let everyone in the family see it - the family can help monitor events that result in mad or unhappy feelings - this can assist in minimizing daily stress for the child

    The combination of family therapy, CBT, individual therapy, and professional nutritional or dietary help will, with time, assist a child to exchange negative behaviors and an unhealthy lifestyle for positive thoughts, feelings, and healthy eating habits.

    Counseling children with binge eating disorder can be successful with this combination approach and children can realize a healthier and happier life because of it.

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    References

    National Institute of Mental Health - Binge Eating Disorder: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/eating-disorders/binge-eating-disorder.shtml

    Eating Disorder Foundation.org - About Eating Disorders: http://www.eatingdisorderfoundation.org/EatingDisorders.htm

    Help Guide.org - Treatment and Help for Binge Eating Disorder: http://www.helpguide.org/mental/binge_eating_disorder.htm

    Kids Health.org - Binge Eating Disorder: http://kidshealth.org/parent/emotions/behavior/binge_eating.html#