Teen Talk: Boro groups help teens combat eating disorders

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Young people today have access to more health information and are probably better informed than ever before about healthy body image and self-esteem. Yet eating disorders in Queens have continued to increase over the past 15 years.

Eating disorders develop for a number of reasons. Often psychological, interpersonal or social problems lead to feelings of inadequacy, depression, anxiety or loneliness. These feelings can push someone into developing an eating disorder as a coping mechanism.

There are three different kinds of eating disorders. Anorexia nervosa is when people eat very little food or stop eating altogether. Those who make themselves throw up after eating a lot of food have bulimia. And stuffing yourself with food all the time is called compulsive overeating. In all three, food takes on a power way beyond simple nutrition. Food — or the lack of it — becomes a means of medicating yourself, numbing yourself to what’s bothering you and what you don’t know how to take care of any other way.

All three are serious emotional disorders that are potentially life-threatening.

Preventing eating disorders includes educating teens to take care of their physical and psychological selves in a sensible and balanced way. A key component in breaking the cycle is to urge teens to talk to parents and get professional help when they can’t seem to help themselves out of self-destructive feelings or behaviors.

And if you’re looking for help, you don’t have to go far. Our own borough houses more than a hundred different clinical programs which offer psychological and psychiatric treatments, nutritional therapy, at home visits, phototherapy and public speaking.

Just a few are the Bio-Behavioral Institute located at 935 Northern Blvd., the Young Adult Institute at 211-11 Northern Blvd., Hillside Hospital, Holliswood Hospital and Jamaica Medical Center. And even our schools sponsor workshops on eating disorders, such as St. John’s University. There are also many online sources that you can go to get help.

There’s a lot of common sense to controlling food so that it doesn’t control you. Eat only when you are hungry and, of course, stop when you are full. You should never eat because you are bored or sad or angry. The key is to be in charge of your emotions.

And just remember there is nothing wrong in seeking help.

Updated 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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