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Why expectations in the social network can encourage eating disorders

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Jennifer Lombardi, MFT, is the Executive Director of the Eating Recovery Center of California in Sacramento which treats eating disorders. She wants parents to know that the expectations we have for our children are amplified in the social network, as illustrated by a recent news story about Dr. Drew Pinksy’s daughter who recently declared her eating disorder. According to The New York Post she cited her mother’s expectations of perfection as the primary inspiration for her bulimia. Pinsky’s daughter also reportedly expressed disdain for the media hype criticizing a woman’s body size and type, offering as an example the inappropriate attention Kim Kardashian received about her pregnancy weight gain.

Interestingly, Dr. Pinsky is a media personality known for his expertise in helping people understand addiction to medication who apparently did not have any idea about his own daughter’s illness that had lasted over seven years.

Just makes one think about how well children can conceal things that might frighten or potentially disappoint.

Lombardi observes that the “perfect kid” may be harboring anxiety that can turn against their own health and well being. “With many kids we are encouraging them to do their best. But with these ‘perfect kids’ who have the neat room, are excellent students and have perfectionist tendencies, the challenge is to help them tolerate imperfection in themselves,” she said. “Kids at risk are compulsive about acceptance through their achievement and they do not do well with change. They have a hard time defending their values in changing circumstances, and view others’ opinions as being more significant.”

According to Lombardi, once the child engages in an eating disorder (anorexia and/or bulimia) it is very difficult to turn it around and it can be fatal. Much like drug addiction disorders, an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure.

Most importantly, Lombardi stressed that eating disorders pertain to a very small subset of the population and it is very much connected to biochemistry. There are some genetic pre-conditions, so it is important for parents to understand that they are not to blame, even if the child does blame you.

Warning signs for eating disorders

  • Your child is a perfectionist about everything.
  • Very concerned about pleasing others.
  • Displays an anxious temperament.
  • Worries, ruminates and contemplates about “what if’s”.
  • Your child does not like conflict and is a people pleaser.

Compounding the shame associated with this disease is cyber communications, which makes it easy to learn about how to achieve unhealthy weight goals and body size through anorexia and bulimia best practices.

These are indeed deadly secrets in the social network.

Lombardi urges parents with any of these signs to get your child to a pediatrician and have a full physical done and a thorough eating disorder assessment completed. “Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate, upwards of 10%,” she said. “And death usually happens as cardiac arrest. You don’t see it coming.”

For more information about assessments and this disease, contact: Eating Recovery Center of California.

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