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How To Protect Your Children From Predators - By Chris Gearing

Friday, November 18, 2011

Why do we miss predators in our own back yard so often?

First of all, we often use a lot of denial to explain their behavior. We want to believe the lies and we fill in the blanks of information that a skilled liar carefully leaves out.

A person of conscience has difficulty translating the behavior of a predator, and the sociopath uses that advantage to make the normal person feel paranoid and even crazy.

Here are some signs that someone you know may be a predator:

1. Charm and smoothness that covers a cunning, deceptive self

2. Natural actors who are adapt at reading and using others

3. Constantly studies the motivations of other people in order to manipulate them

4. Enjoys dominating others and taking control

5. When confronted, will use anger or tears to manipulate accusers

The worst part is that many predators are unable to acknowledge their actions and what they have done to the child.

They also refuse to acknowledge the consequences of their decisions, even when the facts are right in front of them. The refusal to see their part in their own wrongdoing is what psychologists call “consistent irresponsibility.” If something goes wrong, it is always someone else's fault—the child, the community, whatever. Tragically, the predator never learns from what they have done.

Parents, here’s what you can do to protect your kids:

Believe Them: All to often, parents dismiss what their kids are saying as fantasy and don’t believe them. When it comes to this kind of behavior, always take it seriously and talk to your child about what happened.

Educate Them: The Penn State tragedy has started a national conversation that parents need to utilize to educate their children on self-protection. Our children are often the only ones “face to face” with the potential pedophile and we need to teach them how to use their own common sense and intuition to speak out and fight back. Learning about sexual predators and their characteristics will help you guide your children and protect them from the dangers in their lives. This is not meant to scare them but to educate and empower them.

Protect Them: Always know where your kids are and whom they are with. Whether it’s a family member, a family friend, or friend from school – make sure that you know the people your children are around and keep a record of where they are. If you feel uneasy about the person or the place you are leaving your child, listen to your intuition and get them out of there. As an adult, you know more of the signals and signs of potential predators and are much better at picking them out and protecting your children from them.

If you are worried that your child may have been a victim of a sexual predator, please contact a licensed psychologist for help. This kind of trauma can fundamentally change your child’s life and have lifelong devastating effects.

Sources:

"The Sociopath Next Door" by Martha Stout

Sexual Harassment In Your Child's School - By Chris Gearing

Monday, November 07, 2011

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing discuss sexual harassment in your child's school on CBS 11 - click here.

Being sexually harassed has become a way of life for millions of young teens. We knew that sexual harassment and bullying increased enormously in middle school but now we understand what form it takes. Attacking someone’s sexuality, attractiveness, appearance and relationships with the opposite sex is a devastating blow at any age. However, our appearance and sexuality are at their most vulnerable in this age range.

Having a bully repeatedly harass you about these things—that often you cannot change--can create longstanding beliefs that may linger for years. Kids struggle with questions about "how attractive am I really?" and "what kind of self confidence will carry me forward?" Such behavior can rearrange the beliefs of an otherwise normal child.

Such harassment can also lead to clinical depression. We know that depression strikes a full decade earlier in this generation of children compared to 50 years ago, and they tend to fall back into depression sometime during childhood a shocking 50% of the time. This study may explain in part, why our kids are getting depressed so early and so seriously.

Why has sexual harassment started to plague our kids at school?

Children in their middle school years naturally focus on their appearance and social status. However, they have never been more focused on their appearance and sexuality than they are today. Our kids live in the era of the adolescent celebrity culture and most of these celebrities are provocatively dressed with glamorous lifestyles that are highly misleading to an impressionable kid. Kids like Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez present a slice of life that is just not possible.

I think that this study’s results highlight the enormous preoccupation with appearance and adequacy that starts much earlier in our children than it did a generation ago. The type of bullying and sexual harassment that we are now seeing is a direct reflection of the mixed messages our kids are getting.

Do boys and girls react differently to the sexual harassment?

This study indicates that girls suffer more. Girl were more frequently the victim with 52% of them reporting that they were harassed in person and 36% reporting online bullying. The girls were the recipient of being touched in an unwelcome way while their sexual orientation was raised as a question. We know that girls can descend into an internal dialogue that renders them helpless. They may not know what to do and as a result do nothing. While 34% of the boys were victims of in person harassment and 24% online harassment, the figures were still significant. Neither gender needs to hear this kind of bullying at school or anywhere else.

The effects of sexual harassment are devastating to a child's development.

The kids tend to get helpless. That is very typical of a bullied child—they do nothing, put their head down and perhaps the bully will go away. Indeed, the study reported that half of those who were harassed did nothing about it. Again, this kind of experience is very confusing. Most kids emerge out of childhood into early adolescence trusting that others will be nice to them. They do not start out believing that their peers will traumatize them. Sexual harassment is unexpected and there are no rehearsed strategies for dealing with it. They may be embarrassed to report it to their school counselors or parents.

The bigger question is how a child could even begin to harass others.

The research indicates that most kids use bullying and harassment to gain social status. Remember that this kind of behavior is often public and for the entertainment of others. The bullies know exactly what they are doing and it is intentional. Most of the time, these kids know exactly what they are doing is wrong.

Although some studies suggest that around 40% of them have some mild empathy, another 40% are indifferent to the suffering of their victims and 20% actively enjoy the intimidation and control.

The common denominator of all bullying and harassment is the intentional act to inflict pain on another person. Unfortunately, the anonymity of the Internet is ideal for such vicious behavior. Around 50% of online bullies report that they inflict such cruelty “for fun” and to “teach the target a lesson.” However, a study published in 2006 reported that 12% of teens were physically threatened online and 5% actually feared for their physical safety.

If you're worried about your child being sexually harassed, here are some things you can do:

First, Stop Denying: Many adults prefer to view this form of bullying as a normal “rite of passage” through childhood. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are millions of kids who are being sexually harassed who are losing hope.

Bystanders Are Key: Research now argues that the bystanders of harassment and bullying are one of the vital keys to decreasing this growing problem. Our non harassed kids must learn to speak up, refuse to be an audience, label harassment publicly, and to go and get help when the situation is out of control.

Empower the Victims: Believe your child about harassment. This study is proving that this is a reality for young teens. Children who are sexually harassed are likely to withdraw, deny what is happening, and suffer these horrors in silence. Such behaviors “feed” the harasser’s control. We cannot allow that as parents. Start a conversation today with your child about this issue. She needs to be reassured that you will take this seriously and will intervene if you have to. Get your child training in social skills and communication. These skills are teachable and will help to protect her.

Complex Trauma In Children - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing discuss Judge Adams and complex trauma in children on CBS 11 - click here.

With the recent shocking video of Texas Judge William Adams beating his daughter, many people are wondering what kind of horrors may be lurking in their own neighborhoods. Many people do not fully understand trauma and how it can affect children and adolescents who are traumatized in their own homes.

How does physical and emotional abuse affect a child?

It is completely disastrous. The harm to a developing child is much more serious than to an adult. Adolescence is one of the worst times to expose a child’s brain to violence of any kind. Their brains are still developing and the brain can be fundamentally de-regulated during the most important years of development. The emotional parts of the brain are over-stimulated and they do not develop in unison leaving the child more vulnerable to a host of mental health issues including anxiety, depression, addictions and post-traumatic stress disorders. Such conditions have massive effect on the child's personality, how the treat others, and the choices that are made in jobs, spouses, and education. This is kind of child abuse can have lifelong effects.

Does parental physical abuse affect the child more than other kinds of abuse?

Without a doubt, physical abuse from a parent is much more devastating to the child. We know that trauma is worse when someone we know—a friend, neighbor or even acquaintance--inflicts it. Suddenly, someone you know trust is now a threat, and mistrust of others is a natural consequence.

In cases in which the parent inflicts the abuse, the betrayal is even more traumatic. We underestimate the effect that a parent’s cruel and abusive behavior can have on a child. The one person in the world you were supposed to trust—your parent—has now turned on you.

Worse then that, the behavior is legitimized by the rest of the family. There is nowhere for a young child to turn. The abuse is “crazy making” since the parent who has abused their authority is unapologetic, and the other family members blame you for the family turmoil. Children in this situation commonly develop complex traumatic disorder as a result of the chronic cruelty.

What is Complex Post-Traumatic Syndrome?

We now know that the most powerful determinant of psychological harm is the severity of the traumatic event itself. This new disorder goes beyond the traditional descriptions of post-traumatic stress disorder. Psychologists now understand that psychological stressors reside on a complexity continuum. At one end are single-incident traumatic events such as a car accident, a mugging, etc. At the opposite end are psychological responses to multiple, extended, and often highly invasive and traumatic events. Having a family member physically strike you on multiple occasions belongs in this range.

Why don't the other family members ever come forward?

Trauma occurs when you feel completely powerless. You must remember that when a person is overwhelmed by terror and helplessness, their ability to self activate is completely obliterated. When neither resistance nor escape is possible, the human self-defense system becomes overwhelmed and disorganized. We are immobilized and literally the problem solving parts of the brain shut down.

Trauma occurs when nothing you do can alleviate the outcome. Traumatic events interrupt our belief that we can control the outcome of our lives. Psychologists now believe that trauma may even deeply affect the central nervous system. Trauma victims feel that their adrenaline is constantly flowing and they are in a state of continuous alert. Victims are convinced, at a visceral level, that danger might return at any moment. They narrow their world and become terrified of new situations.

Can Post Traumatic Stress or Complex Trauma occur in events that are not life threatening?

Both can absolutely occur in events that are not life threatening but threaten us in other ways. Psychologists now believe that trauma can be incurred in a number of other non-life threatening situations, such as infidelity, in which the betrayed partner is made to feel intense fear, helplessness, loss of control, and the threat of their safety disappearing.

If you think you or someone you know may be traumatized, here are some of the top symptoms to watch out for:

Hyper-arousal: The person has a persistent expectation of danger and is overly reactive to stress.

Intrusive Thinking: The victim experiences repeated thoughts and memories from the trauma. Intrusive thoughts reflect the indelible imprint of the traumatic moment.

Emotional Constriction: People who have been victimized are often so overwrought with emotion that they try to avoid and restrict their emotional responses to everything. The constriction reflects the numbing response of surrender.

We know more about trauma than we ever did. The success rates for professional treatment are excellent and the sooner you address these issues, the better.

The Death of Osama bin Laden - By Chris Gearing

Monday, May 02, 2011

Shortly before midnight last night, President Obama informed the nation that Osama bin Laden had been killed after a ten-year manhunt. Finally, a fatal blow had been dealt against Al Qaeda and terrorist organizations around the world. So what do these historic events mean for Americans going forward?

So, why is the death of Osama Bin Laden so significant to so many Americans?

Osama Bin Laden inflicted the greatest crime against this country in our history. But he also inflicted one of the greatest traumas in our history. There are several reasons why these atrocities have had such a long lasting and profound effect:

Nothing We Could Do: Traumatic reactions occur when actions don’t help—there was nothing we could do immediately to change the events. The lack of predictability was particularly damaging—what had we missed, why didn’t we see it coming? When you can’t fight back and you cannot escape (the events of 9/11 had already happened), your usual self-defense strategies become overwhelmed and disorganized. That’s when trauma gets a grip on your mind.

Trauma Lasts Longer: Trauma makes you feel powerless. However, when you have traumatic events that occur without warning, involve violent death and destruction and are engineered by a person who deliberately sets out to harm you, the trauma is more intense and more long lasting.

Intense Anxiety: If we cannot resolve the trauma by seeing justice done immediately, the body begins to encode the trauma. Physiological arousal increases—we are more anxious, on edge and agitated. Traumatized people feel like their nervous systems are still connected to the traumatic events.

Disconnection in Our Minds: Our minds begin to encode it too. We are affected in every area of our minds—our emotions, our thinking and our memory. Worst of all, trauma divides our mind—we feel but we can’t remember everything or we remember everything but we don’t have any emotions.

What would have happened to our country if Bin Laden had not been brought to justice?

He would have become more powerful in our own minds since he did not have to answer for his crimes. People who have been victimized need to see their victimizer held accountable. Without that, the perpetrator assumes an unfair advantage in our minds—he did the crime and got away with it. This can be extremely hard for everyone since we want to see our country as a just country with but one that insists that criminals face real consequences. His apprehension last night helped everyone breathe a huge sigh of relief and it will be very healing for the country.

Now, how will these events speed up the healing from the trauma from 9/11?

There are three broad stages or recovery that apply to both us as individuals and to the country as a whole:

New Sense of Safety: Seeing Bin Laden brought to justice gives all of us an incredible sense of safety and closure. This is a game changer because we can now begin to feel that our security is at least, somewhat in place again. We no longer have to think of this particular terrorist as free and plotting against us. We can embrace a feeling of renewed control and predictability.

Narrative of What Happened: Trauma recovery always involves coming to terms with the events, our part in them and creating a new outcome to those events.

Emergence as Victorious: Many Americans will feel safer now since we sent a clear message that terrorists will see justice, even if it takes us a decade to catch them. This is the final stage of trauma recovery—one of victory.

So here's the take away from yesterday's events:

Perseverance Leads to Achievement: This was a long battle to find a single man and sends a clear message to the Taliban. Our country was built by people who went the distance to achieve the goal and did not stop even if there was a setback. We persevered in the face of impossible odds and we did not back down. We hunted him down until we caught him. These events are a demonstration of pushing through until you win. Current generations that emphasize feeling good at the expense of achievement and hard work need to remember these core American values.

Seeking Justice: Most of all, Americans need to remember that our country seeks justice, even if it takes us a decade to achieve it. Once again, our military showed us why we are the best country in the world.

Princess Diane & Kate Middleton - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Brides and Mother-In-Law Blues

Inevitably the upcoming nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton cause many of us to remember Princess Diana and her fairytale wedding thirty years ago. As the wedding countdown continues, the press has been full of comparisons between the two women leaving many of us to wonder if we would want to be compared to our own mother in law, especially at our wedding?

First of all, why do we all think about Princess Diana’s memory at her son’s wedding?

We are still in love with the princess who was so much like us-- rejected, misunderstood, and betrayed by her husband and his lover. We identified with her failures as much as with her successes. We also still have enormous compassion for the sons she left behind so William’s big day is somewhat healing for us all—we like to think of him as comfortably partnered. But there are several reasons why Kate will be compared to Diana:

Both Larger than Life: Both women will have married the heir apparent to the British throne. We all love meteoric rises and we will enjoy seeing their lives transform from routine to royal.

Both are Open and Humble: Both of these women share an uncommon friendliness despite their great stations in life. They both enchant us in by their humble demeanors.

Dreams Versus Real Life: Diana enthralled the world with her dramatic life and we journeyed with her from Cinderella dreams to the stunning reality of betrayal and divorce. We don’t want Kate to suffer a similar fate so we are studying her similarities and dissimilarities with her mother in law to reassure ourselves.

How will Diana’s legacy impact the marriage?

Prince William has already been quoted as saying that “no one is trying to fill my mother’s shoes.” He will, no doubt, be highly protective of Kate since he does not want her to be pursued and hunted by the media like Diana was. This is ultimately a chance for William to do what he could not do for his mother—protect her. Diana’s example has also made this couple much more careful in committing since they know that the spotlight can be tough on a marriage. Diana’s legacy will make them much more likely to move as a team and to put their marriage first before their royal positions.

So for the rest of us, why are mother in laws often so challenging for daughter in laws?

There are several reasons:

Confused About Roles: There can be natural tension because these two women have to share the same man. Many mothers are reluctant to move from being the top female in his life to a secondary position. On the other hand, many women enter the marriage demanding that they “own” their husband and the mother in law is seen as interference.

Mom is Right: Research shows that men are often reluctant to “buck” their mothers even if their wife demands it. They see the wife as stronger and younger and the one who must make concessions to the older woman.

Empathy is Needed: Men have more difficulty talking about emotional matters than women. The woman initiates eighty five percent of relationship- focused conversations. A man becomes overwhelmed by conflict faster and he shuts down to prevent his discomfort from rising. When his mother is the issue, this habit on his part can be especially frustrating since he shuts down and disappears into silence.

Closed to Reassessment: Many men refuse to look at things from their wives’ perspective. “She didn’t mean it like that” or “you’re too sensitive” are common excuses. Sometimes mother in laws do mean exactly what their daughter in law thinks they mean. On the other hand, some women can be oversensitive and inaccurate in how they’re interpreting their mother in law. Their husband needs to at least hear her out and help her reach a solution in her own mind.

Here's how you can improve your relationship with your mother-in-law or your daughter-in-law today:

For Mothers:

Respect her relationship with your son, don’t criticize her parenting even if you disagree, don’t criticize your grandchildren to her, and please do not compete with her mother. Keep your boundaries and focus on your grandchildren—they are your ultimate legacy!

For Wives:

Your mother in law is your husband’s mother and holds a sacred place forever in his life. Hold your boundaries with grace. Lose that idealism about how things should be and focus on making things better as they are. Don’t compete with her, please try to diffuse conflict by being overly gracious and don’t cut him off from his family. Your children will suffer and you will regret that loss.

Remember that you will be a mother in law someday and that you are teaching your children how to navigate differences in a family. Be kind because we always reap what we sow!

Score Keeping In Relationships - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Scorekeeping is common in even the best of marriages. Is there any value to keeping track of what your partner has done in the past or can scorekeeping become destructive over the long haul?

Why do couples like to keep score in marriage?

Scorekeeping is a symptom of a marriage in distress. When you begin to debate the “who did what last” things can get heated and you can find yourself squaring off regularly with the person you pledged to love for “better or worse.” An atmosphere of division and contempt replaces marital collaboration.

Here's how scorekeeping begins:

Too Exhausted: Most of us are too tired and too emotionally stretched to be objective about the words and actions of each partner.

Magnify Our Contributions: We begin to magnify everything we do in the relationship and discount what he or she does.

Blaming Gives Us Control: Blaming the other person gives us a momentary feeling of control over our stress. However, chronically assigning blame and expressing disappointment can mortally wound a marriage over time.

Marital Accountant: Destructive scorekeeping draws the marital battle lines and each partner becomes a marital “accountant.”

So, how does scorekeeping affect a marriage over time?

Anger is Normal: We know that negative emotions in marriage are normal. If you feel criticized, you’ll respond in anger and visa versa. Score keeping gets a foothold in the marriage when couples remain resentful and fail to truly patch things up after conflict. Telling your partner they need to do better all the time is a contemptuous thing to do.

Partner is the Problem: When there is tension in a marriage, we tend to perceive our partner’s personality as the problem. Scorekeeping begins when you are tense and angry with a partner who is perceived as either taking advantage or neglecting the marriage.

Are there times in the marriage when couples are more likely to score keep?

Dramatic Change: Usually there is a huge change that has taken place in the marriage, like a new job, a new baby, or a relocation. Change that reshuffles schedules is especially likely to lead to score keeping. Time and energy become resources that are fought over.

Baby Makes Three: Prior to children, most couples seem to divide things up pretty easily and without a lot of conflict. If they have huge conflict over the division of labor early in the marriage, the relationship often ends by the five-year mark. However, two thirds of new parents experience a significant drop in marital satisfaction within the first year. Most of the conflict is around score keeping.

Women and Housework: With eighty percent of women now working full-time, the pace of work is relentless! But fifty eight percent of American women are convinced that the division of labor at home is unfair to them. Only eleven percent of men feel similarly. This is when score keeping becomes really prominent. Exhausted, overworked, financially stressed partners love to keep score and point the finger at her spouse.

Here's what you can do to stop score keeping today.

Ask for a Truce: Approach your partner by saying, “we can do better as a team.” Ask him to join with you in solving a problem and avoid blaming.

Be Accountable: Recognize you’re scorekeeping. Avoid sarcasm, labels and contemptuous body language.

Talk it Out: Share What You are Seeing as Objectively as you can. Air your complaints without criticizing or making your spouse the problem.

Set Reasonable Expectations and Plan: Scorekeeping will disappear when we begin to work as a team. Prioritize the tasks, follow through, and remember that changing a bad habit takes at least thirty days!

Regretting Lost Loves - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Ever wish you could have a “do over?” Many of us wish we had made better decisions in life but a new study reveals that Americans have the greatest number of regrets about romance.

So, what exactly is regret and why do we have so many regrets about our love life?

Regrets are those beliefs that we could and should have done better in a certain situation. We torture ourselves endlessly with recalling, reviewing and criticizing ourselves for not making a better play. We beat ourselves up for not getting it right the first time.

I’m not surprised that most Americans cite their love life as the biggest area of regret since relationships often only seem clear when we are out of them! That twenty twenty hindsight is often hard won and without it, we often make disastrous mistakes in love that costs us in profound ways—time, money, sleep, our dignity and shear suffering when we’re with the wrong person. Most of us make decisions about partners with our emotional brains and not with our analytical minds leaving us vulnerable to the partner who is adorable but terrible for us. Once the charm wears off, it is easy to see our bad choices.

Do men and women regret different things?

They both flag relationships as their top area of regret but I do believe that women are more likely to ruminate about their lives then men are. We love picking ourselves to death over our bad choices. Forty four percent of us regret a past relationship decision with only 19% of men sharing the same sentiment. A woman has twice the emotional memory in her brain as a man and she remembers every detail of the relationship or encounter. Women are built for relating, remembering and regretting!

On the other hand, a man is more likely to define himself through status and power. Work is where most men direct their regret with thirty four percent of men regretting their career decisions. Twenty seven percent of women reported similar regrets.

Are we more likely to regret things we’ve done or haven’t done?

We tend to regret both the things we’ve done and the things we didn’t do. But our missed opportunities are the ones that stay with us. We are haunted for many years by what might have been, whom we might have loved and what kindnesses we might have extended to another person.

When people regret their past relationship decisions, they are often haunted by the relationship that never completely came together or that ended prematurely—for whatever reason. Especially when there is lost potential, many people, especially men, seem to hold on to the dreams of what might have been. In fact, they may have gained a new appreciation for that person and how they felt when they were with them. That silent regret may never be shared with another person but they often feel that they should have fought harder to keep the relationship or to tell her how he felt.

Here's how you can avoid feeling regret?

In every decision, you need to consider what you will regret in the long run. I call it the ten-year rule.

Here are three points to keep in mind:

Years from Now: Will you be proud of the decision you made ten years from now or will you regard your decision as immature, ill advised or even self-indulgent?

Value Based Decisions: Decisions we make reflect our goals. Make sure that you keep your goals in mind when you make a major decision. For example, is being a great dad more important than that promotion?

Avoid Temporary Temptations: Yielding to short-term temptations that are bad for you can lead to a lifetime of regret. The bottom line is to make the best choice at the time and to make each experience count.

What can we do if we have a regret we can’t get over?

Practice Self-Compassion: Remember to practice self-compassion when you review your life’s decisions. Part of being effective is remembering that the right decision is often unclear at the time we are making it. All you can do is to make the best decision with what you know to be true or accurate at the time. Everyone falls short and everyone makes an occasional bad call. But the true measure of a life is how you handle your failures, not how you handle the applause when you win at life.

Forgive Yourself: Forgiving yourself is the key to overcoming regret. Seventy percent of us walk around with guilt and regret our entire lives. Be honest with yourself, learn from your misfires, forgive yourself for your shortcomings and move on. Life is to be lived in the moment, not in the thousand regrets that rob us of today.

Sex Comes Faster For Couples Who Text - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Eating Disorders In Older Women - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Eating disorders affect up to 70 million people worldwide with 24 million Americans suffering from this disorder according to the National Institute of Health. While current studies indicate that 95% of eating disorders affect girls between the ages of 11 and 25, new research reports that record numbers of older women are now affected by eating disorders.

So, why would an older woman develop an eating disorder at this time of life?

There are four principle reasons that women develop a midlife eating disorder:

Control and Eating Disorders: Control is the common denominator between all eating disorders. A current trauma or dramatic change in her life that makes her feel vulnerable and helpless can precipitate an eating disorder. Husbands leave, parents die and friends move away leaving her without the support system she has known for years. An eating disorder can become a comfortable, familiar “friend” during these dark times. Micromanaging your food intake either through restricting food or binging with food can leave you flush with a momentary exhilaration in an anxious life.

Social Pressure: Women are subjected to continued pressure to look young and being super thin is associated with being young. The $40 billion dollar diet industry is all too willing to help her strive for the ideal body type found in only 5% of American females. Most eating disorders begin with body dissatisfaction and shedding pounds gains her enormous social approval.

Undiagnosed Depression or Anxiety: Depressive and anxiety disorders commonly co occur with eating disorders. Eating disorders are cruel masters and the constant striving for perfection can wear any woman out. If binging is the disorder of choice, the extra weight causes increased self-loathing and depression.

Previous Eating Disorder Returning: Eating disorders are complex, chronic mental health illnesses that can lie dormant during the childrearing years to return at midlife when there are fewer distractions and less applause.

Why are these disorders so difficult to detect in older women?

We associate eating disorders with a young girl’s struggle. By midlife, most people think you should be over those vain concerns about your body. But tragically, highly negative beliefs about your body never leave most women. We develop a self loathing toward our bodies early in life (78% of 17 year olds despise their bodies according to one study), we never consider if we are logical or rational in our self appraisal and we reinforce our negative self appraisal constantly by comparing ourselves to all the celebrities that have obvious eating disorders!

Most midlife women tend to escape notice from medical professionals since we are so adaptive in so many other areas of our lives. We often do not realize that we even have a problem. In addition, our friends and colleagues praise us when we are razor thin. No one ever stops to ask if all that exercising, food restriction or binging are really healthy for us.

Do the same eating disorders affect both young and older women and what are the signs?

Both age groups seem to develop similar disorders. However, the older woman may evolve quicker to the binge eating disorder than her younger peer. But there are important facts to keep in mind about eating disorders in any age category:

Deadly Disorders: Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. Twenty percent of people suffering from anorexia will prematurely die from complications related to their eating disorder. These disorders can be deadly since the malnourishment strikes at the very metabolic and cardiac systems that are foundational for good health.

Three Distinct Disorders:

Anorexia Nervosa: No one sets out to develop an eating disorder. We “back into them” usually in response to a growing dislike for our bodies. This disorder usually begins at age 17 just as she is headed out into the world. Symptoms include a relentless pursuit of being thin, obsession with being perfect, an obsessive fear of gaining any weight and a denial of emaciation.

Bulimia Nervosa: The woman engages in binge eating and then inappropriate methods of preventing weight gain including purging or excessive exercising.

Symptoms Include:

  • Rituals built around eating large amounts of food within a 2 hour period
  • Feels out of control with the eating.

Binge Eating Disorder affects about 3 percent of Americans. Some experts believe that the disorder is rising faster than anorexia and bulimia. Women who binge hide their disorder and ask for help much later in life.

What should we do if we are worried about a woman we love?

  • Educate yourself about eating disorders first and acknowledge that they are dangerous. Remember that these disorders gradually build and are much easier to treat the earlier they are diagnosed.
  • Approach her with compassion and support when you express how concerned you are for her. Lead with empathy before you give advice.
  • Remind her of her lifetime of accomplishments—the children she has reared, the career she has built and tell her that this is a surmountable challenge.
  • Encourage her to get a professional evaluation with a psychologist specializing in eating disorders.

Is There Really A Seven Year Itch? - By Chris Gearing

Monday, April 04, 2011

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