It’s Not About the Food

For so many adolescent and young women, their peers and social media play a huge part in their body image. The positive affirmation they receive from likes, followers, and comments about their physical appearance and weight feels good. On the other side, peers can be shaming on these platforms and it is painful to see negative comments about yourself . Both are happening on social media, in schools, and other areas in their life. Eating disorders and disordered eating behaviors are ways to cope with what they are feeling in the moment. 

When most people think about eating disorders and disordered eating behaviors, they think of girls just not eating, binging and then throwing up their food (purging), or just overeating. It is so much more than that. Disordered eating behaviors are more often not about the food at all. Many people who struggle with eating disorders often love food and/or cooking. The disordered eating behaviors are just symptoms of other things going on. For some, the stress in their life is so high that they feel what goes into their body or not is the only thing they can control. Others may find comfort in the feeling of fullness or emptiness. Other symptoms are  negative body image, low self-worth, and body dysmorphic thoughts. Body Dysmorphic Disorder (Body Dysmorphia) occurs when someone is fixated on one or more flaws of their physical appearance that are not noticeable to others. This often includes body checking, mirror checking, excessive grooming, seeking outside validation for their appearances, and comparison to others (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). This is different from eating disorders because it is not dependent on weight. Below the main types of eating disorders are described in terms of diagnosis of disorder. The functions of each eating disorder vary depending on the person.

Types of Eating Disorders: 

Anorexia Nervosa 

  • When someone restricts energy/food intake leading to significant low body weight
  • When someone has a BMI of 18 and below
  • Has an intense fear of gaining weight and being fat 
  • In females, there may be a loss of their period. 

Atypical Anorexia 

  • Has a pattern of restriction and intense fear of gaining weight with a BMI over 18. 

Bulimia Nervosa 

  • A pattern of binging on food (see specifics in Binge Eating Disorder explanation) with a behavior to compensate for the overeating. 
  • Compensatory behavior is called purging. Purging includes inducing vomiting, misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or other medications (ex. diet pills), fasting, and excessive exercise. 
  • A significant link between weight and self-worth. 

Binge Eating Disorder 

  • When someone has a pattern of eating an amount of food that is significantly larger than what most people would eat in a short period of time. 
  • This includes eating quickly, feeling uncomfortably full, eating large amount of food when not hungry, and feelings of embarrassment, guilt, shame, depression, and disgust after eating 
  • (American Psychiatric Association, 2013)

If you think you might be or are struggling with disordered eating behaviors or are a caregiver to someone struggling, please call and make an appointment with Ali Marino, MS, LMFT. Call Hurley Counseling, 251-222-8880.

Your Story Isn’t Over Yet

Suicide is a difficult topic, and a lot of times is one that we try to avoid. In the United States, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death, and statistics show us that somebody dies by suicide approximately every 12 minutes. Because of the severity of the issue, countless organizations are working to raise awareness and reduce stigma so that it is okay for people to talk about these kinds of issues. Suicide is one of the most preventable forms of death. By bringing these issues out into the open we can potentially save countless lives. One organization that is working to reduce stigma is Project Semicolon.

Project Semicolon was founded 2013 Amy Bleuel, in honor of her father who died by suicide when she was 18. Amy also struggled with suicidality and depression throughout her life. She chose a semicolon because it is used when the author could have ended the sentence but chose not to. It is a message to remind people to keep going because their story is not over yet, there is still more to be written. The idea is for people to get a semicolon tattooed somewhere visible (most commonly the wrist, ankle, or behind their ear). For those who are not comfortable getting a tattoo, they suggest you draw one on with a marker or eyeliner. The tattoo is supposed to serve a signal to those who are struggling. It means “I’ve been there, or I love someone who has been there; you’re not alone.” For those who do not know what the semicolon tattoo means, it is meant to start a dialogue. When people ask what the tattoo means, it opens the door to educate them about the importance of mental health. Discussing mental health issues is one of the best ways to reduce the stigma and keep those who are struggling from feeling alone.

Unfortunately, in 2017 Amy Bleuel lost her battle to depression and died by suicide, but the organization she founded lives on, bringing hope and support to thousands who struggle with depression, suicide, self-harm, addiction, and trauma. They offer encouragement and resources and invite people to share their stories. For more information about this organization and the work they do visit Project Semicolon’s website, or follow them on Facebook or Twitter.

If you or someone you know is experiencing thoughts of suicide or self-harm, please do not hesitate to call National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or text the Crisis Text Line (text HELLO to 741741). Please reach out if you need help, all calls are confidential, and professionals are available 24/7. Your story isn’t over yet.

This blog was written by our intern, Hannah Shaffett

Your Child’s Mental Health: Facts and Fiction

Nobody wants to realize that somebody they love is struggling, be it with their physical or mental health. It is an especially hard realization when that individual struggling is a child. Additionally, determining when a child is struggling can be hard. Children don’t have the same vocabulary or introspective abilities that adults do and sometimes it can be hard to determine what is a normal part of development and what is cause for concern. Additionally, there are myths and misconceptions surrounding mental health treatment for children. Examining these myths and teasing apart facts from fiction can help parents and caregivers provide the best care possible for their children.

Myth: Children do not struggle with mental health issues

            This is false. In addition to what is often considered a childhood issue, such as ADHD and learning disorders, children can struggle with some of the same mental health issues adults do, such as depression and anxiety. Additionally, many people who will go on to develop disorders start showing symptoms at a young age. One study suggests that as many as ⅓ of those who will struggle with a mental health issue will show signs before the age of 15, and as many as ⅔ will show signs by 18.

Myth: Children will grow out of mental health problems if left to their own devices

            It is very unlikely that a child will grow out of their mental health issues if left untreated. What is more likely to happen is that those untreated issues will intensify and be harder to treat later in life. This is why early intervention can be so important. Children are still growing and developing and as such are very resilient. Early interventions can teach them skills that they can use for the rest of their lives. In fact, research has shown that treatment within the first few years after symptoms develop is the most likely to have lasting results.

Myth: Children cannot be treated through therapy

            This is false. Therapy for children is different from therapy for adults. It uses age appropriate methods and terminology to engage the children. Therapy for children does not just involve sitting in chairs and talking. It is designed to be a helpful and engaging experience for the child and often involves play. Additionally, a therapist can help both the child and the caregiver understand what the child is going through.

Myth: Childhood mental health struggles are just a result of bad parenting

            Childhood mental health issues are not the parents’ fault. The exact cause of most mental health issues is unclear, but they are believed to be a combination of genetics interacting with life experiences. Though home life can and does affect a child’s mental health, it is not the only factor at work. Additionally, parents or caregivers are an important factor in helping a child cope with the things that are going on in their life. By working together with a therapist, caregivers can vastly improve the state of their child’s mental health.

            Many children struggle with mental health issues and seeing a licensed therapist can help them build the skills they need to succeed in life and grow into happy, healthy adults. Hurley Counseling has several therapists that see children and teenagers. If you have any concerns about your child, please do not hesitate to call at 251-222-8880.

            For excellent information on a huge variety of issues related to childhood mental health please visit the Child Mind Institute.

This blog was written by our intern, Hannah Shaffett.

Welcome Dr James Hurley!

Hurley Counseling is thrilled to announce that James Hurley, D.Phil., Ph.D. will be joining us. Dr Hurley has been a marriage and family therapist for over 35 years. He holds doctorate degrees from both Florida State University and Cambridge University.  He will be joining us in mid-December doing telehealth.

Yoga and Health

In the past couple of decades, there has been a growing interest in yoga in the United States, and around the world. What was once seen as a rather niche pursuit is becoming more and more common, with yoga studios becoming a standard landmark for many areas. When considering taking up any new hobby it is often important to look at what the potential benefits could be. If you’ve been considering taking up yoga (or even if you haven’t yet) read on! Yoga is something that has been shown to benefit both physical and mental health in a wide variety of populations.

            First, let’s examine the effects yoga can have on your mental health. It is pretty common knowledge that yoga is a stress reducer. It helps regulate breathing, promotes relaxation and body awareness and has been shown to reduce cortisol and increase GABA (two chemicals in the brain related to stress responses and the nervous system). Given this, it makes sense that yoga can have a positive impact on individuals struggling with anxiety. In addition to that, it has also been shown to help reduce depression, increase focus in those with ADHD, and (in one study) it improved the symptoms of those with schizophrenia (when combined with medication). Yoga can also help improve sleep quality, which in turn can improve focus, concentration, and cognitive abilities.

Yoga can also improve physical health. Because of the focus on relaxation and deep breathing, participating in yoga can reduce blood pressure, which in turn can improve heart health. It also has been shown to help reduce inflammation and chronic pain in some situations. Additionally, yoga can help increase balance, flexibility, and strength, which also has a positive impact on overall health and wellness.

The benefits of yoga have been studied in all age groups from teens to older adults, as well as people with and without physical and mental health conditions. Overall, a large number of participants saw some positive impact from regular yoga. Now it is important to note that yoga is not a magical cure all, but when combined with therapy, medication, and/or other lifestyle choices it can be an important tool in improving physical and mental health as well as overall wellness. If you have any chronic conditions, it is also important to talk to your doctor before making any major lifestyle changes. 

While joining a yoga class is always a good option, as it provides support and a community, but between the pandemic and the financial cost of classes, that isn’t always an option. Luckly, thanks to youtube, yoga can easily be done for free from the comfort of your own home. Everyone’s needs and taste are different, but here are some beginner videos to get you started. Lengths vary, there are 10 , 20, and 45 minute options, as well as 5 minute yoga that can be done at your desk.

If you would like to read more about the benefits of yoga, here are two articles to get you started.

Take a Stand for Yoga Today

13 Benefits of Yoga

This blog was written by our intern, Hannah Shaffett.