The MLRA Therapy Blog

Insights and ideas from the therapist team at Meghan L. Reitz and Associates.
  • Eating Disorders and Therapy

    Eating Disorders and Therapy

    What is an “Eating Disorder”?

    The words “eating disorder” get used frequently in the media, in schools, at home and at the workplace. It’s important to have a definition behind what an eating disorder actually is before attaching it to someone. First, we cannot make the assumption that a person who looks underweight OR overweight actually has an eating disorder. There could be other health or medical conditions at play. Second, just because someone looks healthy, he/she could very well have an eating disorder. Outward appearances can be deceiving. Don’t assume. 

    If you think you may have an eating disorder or know someone who does, it’s important to seek help and support. This is one of those things that is not just going to “go away”. Let’s start with a few “eating disorder” definitions:

    Anorexia Nervosa - Marked by restriction of food, potential over-exercise, and can be fueled with stimulants and/or laxatives. 

    Bulimia Nervosa - Marked often by binging (overeating) and purging (inducing yourself to vomit); this can also present as eating “normally” and then purging. 

    Binge Eating Disorder - Marked by at least 2 binge episodes a week for at least 6 weeks. 

    Other Eating Disorders - There may be a mix of the behaviors above which don’t quite fit in any of the other categories but still represent a concerning health condition. 

    While these descriptions are very basic, you can get more detailed information on the definitions of different eating disorders at the website of the National Eating Disorders Association: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org

    Symptoms & Behaviors of Eating Disorders

    Let’s talk about specific symptoms or behaviors of eating disorders. Here is a list of a symptoms which may require evaluation by your primary care physician, possibly a psychiatrist and dietitian, and definitely a therapist: 

    • Significant/Rapid weight loss or gain over a short period of time 
    • Obsessing about caloric intake and/or exercise 
    • Having significant body image distortions 
    • Isolating from family or friends (especially during mealtimes, hoarding food, etc.) 
    • Inability to stop eating once full 
    • Feelings of shame or guilt after eating and/or after purging 
    • Preoccupied with thoughts about your (and even others’) weight, weighing yourself on a consistent basis, measuring calories, restricting calories, over exercising, purging, etc. 
    • Avoiding social situations to engage in any above the behaviors 

    If you answered yes to even one of these symptoms/behaviors, please go see your primary care physician to get a physical and be assessed or find a local counselor to discuss these intruding thoughts. 

    Diagnosed with an Eating Disorder? Now What?

    If you have already been diagnosed with an eating disorder, there are often ways to get help in your local community. There are many services to choose from that include eating disorder outpatient and inpatient programs, family based therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and medication management. What you are experiencing and how severe it is will determine which level of service you should seek out. Your primary care physician or other treatment professionals can assist you in referring you to the most appropriate practitioner or facility. 

    Therapies for Eating Disorders

    There are many reasons why an eating disorder might begin. Many eating disorders manifest from societal pressures to look a certain way. They can also present due to past trauma as a form of control. In order for any treatment to be successful, we encourage counseling with both the person with the eating disorder and his/her support system. It is very difficult to make change if the home environment, family members, or supportive friends are not included in treatment. 

    A highly successful therapy is called family based therapy. According to Walden Eating Disorders Treatment, family based therapy for eating disorders include the following tenets: 

    • Parents take charge. 
    • There is no blame for eating disorders. 
    • Focus on the now. 
    • No one chooses to have an eating disorder. 
    • Everyone in the family has a role in the eating disorder treatment/recovery. 

    Success can be limited when a client presenting with an eating disorder is the only person involved in treatment. Eating disorders are a systemic problem and should be treated as one. 

    At our practice in Schaumburg, Illinois, we offer both cognitive behavioral based therapy and family based therapy for eating disorders. Set up an appointment and start your path to recovery.



    ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Meghan Reitz, LCPC, NCCMeghan Reitz, LCPC, NCC, has worked within the counseling profession for over 13 years. Her therapist experience includes providing individual, couples, family, group, and crisis counseling. She also speaks with companies and groups on mental health and wellness topics. Learn more about Meghan HERE.

  • Does my kid need to see a counselor?

    Does my kid need to see a counselor?

    Whether you’re a parent, teacher, or counselor yourself, you may ask yourself: When IS the right time to seek professional counseling for my child or student? Often, we think there must be a huge crisis to warrant professional therapy. However, counseling is more beneficial if used as a proactive rather than reactive measure.

    Here are a few helpful tips to identify if the time is right for counseling:

    • Transitions 
      Relocation of a child’s residence or even a transition from elementary to middle school can be stressful transitions.

    • Puberty 
      It can be an awkward stage for most and often parents and other adults have difficulty addressing the physical, mental, and emotional changes that are occurring during this time.

    • Sibling Addition to the Family
      A new brother or sister can upset the family dynamic in subtle ways. A child who will soon have a new sibling can have a hard time adjusting.

    • Slow or Sudden Emotional Withdrawal
      If you notice a shift in mood, particularly if your child is isolating or not sharing like he/she normally would, this is an ideal time to have them speak to a counselor.

    • Acting Out 
      When a child starts to act out, time spent working with a counselor to learn healthier communication skills, improved parenting skills and limits/boundaries can make a world of difference.

    • Fears/Phobias 
      Counseling can help when a child refuses to go to school,  shows signs of codependency or anxiety in social situations.

    • Parents Divorcing 
      Individual therapy provides a safe space for the child to explore how a divorce or separation is impacting him/her. Family therapy is also a good idea at this point to help parents work on continued parenting skills.

    Some of the above items may seem like natural life-changes that a child is progressing through without issue. For others, these may be areas where a child is struggling or showing signs of trouble that threaten to interrupt development or lessen quality of life.  We understand that the threshold for when a child would benefit from a professional therapist’s help may be different for each family, and there can be a lot of grey area. So, here are the times when counseling is DEFINITELY warranted:

    • Any issues with sexual, verbal, or physical abuse (victim or perpetrator).

    • Explosive behavior or severe defiance that causes the family unit increased stress and instability.

    • Phobias that are severe enough to impact day to day functioning.

    • Self-injury.

    • Suicidal or homicidal thoughts or feelings.

    • Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) are not being maintained or completed (bathing, brushing teeth, etc.)

    • Eating Problems such as preoccupation with food, refusing to eat, binge eating, self-esteem or body image issues.

    As always, contact DCFS’ Abuse Hotline at 800-25-ABUSE if you feel there is abuse or suicidal/homicidal ideation with a plan. If you’re unsure, speak to family, friends, teachers, school counselors, or any adults that are working with your child. It is important to communicate concerns rather than brush them off. Unsure who to talk to? Contact our counselors at Meghan L. Reitz & Associates, LLC to assess your situation and make recommendations for proceeding forward with counseling.



    ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Meghan Reitz, LCPC, NCCMeghan Reitz, LCPC, NCC, has worked within the counseling profession for over 13 years. Her therapist experience includes providing individual, couples, family, group, and crisis counseling. She also speaks with companies and groups on mental health and wellness topics. Learn more about Meghan HERE.

  • SAD: A Guide to Seasonal Affect Disorder

    SAD: A Guide to Seasonal Affect Disorder

    Have you ever noticed a dip in your mood around wintertime? Or notice any of your family or friends being more depressed, less enthusiastic, or having a case of the blahs around this time or season? It could be Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD). It occurs when there is less daylight (shorter days) which is common in the northern hemisphere. Studies have shown that people living north of the equator often experience SAD symptoms and this is directly related to less exposure to Vitamin D- something sunlight provides us.

    What are the symptoms of SAD?

    • Feeling down or depressed with the change of the season
       Most particularly felt as Fall changes to Winter.
    • Feeling a lighter mood with the change of the season
       
      Often felt as Winter changes to Spring.
    • Inexplicable dysthymia
       A case of the blahs- kind of like a low-grade fever you just can’t shake.
    • Increased irritability 
    • Low Vitamin D levels
       Have you had a blood test show you are low?
    • Noticing improvement in mood as the days become longer
       As Spring approaches, you are exposed to more sunlight.
    • You respond to Vitamin D supplements
       Do you notice your mood improve when taking supplements?
    • Lack of motivation or interest in activities or hobbies
       You typically enjoy or are motivated to participate in something but, coinciding with the change of weather or seasons, are no longer as interested or motivated.


    What can you do?

    • Get a physical
       Rule out any other medical issues by seeing your primary care physician.
    • Have your Vitamin D levels tested
       If below normal, take a Vitamin D supplement (with assistance of your PCP).
    • Keep a log
       Record your mood throughout the day for at least a week to see if there is any correlation with the time of day you feel certain ways.
    • Get a “happy light”
       A therapeutic blue light device can provide you the light exposure you are missing.
    • Have realistic goals
       If it is a dreary day, don’t try to conquer the world.
    • Surround yourself with positive people
       Positivity fosters positivity!
    • Don’t isolate
       Push yourself to be in contact with friends and family, even minimally. Something is better than nothing.
    • Seek counseling
       Working with a counselor can help give you real-world strategies to cope and manage your SAD.



    ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Meghan Reitz, LCPC, NCCMeghan Reitz, LCPC, NCC, has worked within the counseling profession for over 13 years. Her therapist experience includes providing individual, couples, family, group, and crisis counseling. She also speaks with companies and groups on mental health and wellness topics. Learn more about Meghan HERE.

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