When eating is a problem
Eating disorders can be devastating mental illnesses that affect as many as seven million American women. People with eating disorders use food and dieting as ways of coping with life's stresses. Eating disorders are more common in younger women and teenage girls than in other individuals.
Eating disorders are treated with any combination of the following:
— therapy to help you develop a healthier attitude about your body — medical evaluations to stabilize you physically
— nutritional counseling to teach you healthy eating habits
— medication, such as antidepressants, to address emotional health problems
— family therapy to establish the support system you need for full recovery
Recognize symptoms of depression
Teenagers have emotional ups and downs, but depression is not normal, it's a medical condition that can be successfully treated. Feeling "blue" or "down" for a short period of time isn't something to be concerned about. However, when these feelings don't go away or get worse, they may be signs of depression and should be evaluated. Here are some questions to help you identify symptoms of depression and figure out if you're depressed:
- Have you been sad a lot lately?
- Have you had crying spells?
- Is there a change in your productivity or your ability to concentrate?
- Does your future look bleak and or overwhelming to you?
- Do you have difficulty making decisions?
- Have you lost interest in aspects of life that used to be important to you?
- Do you feel excessively tired or lethargic and sleep more (or less) than usual?
- Do you feel guilty or like a failure?
- Do you think about killing yourself? Do you think about how you might kill yourself?
If you answer "yes" to any of these questions, you may be depressed. Talking to someone about these feelings can help you get the treatment you need. Depression is a treatable illness.
If you feel like killing yourself, seek help immediately. Call the Suicide Awareness/Voice of Education National Hotline: 1-800-784-2433.
Avoid alcohol, tobacco and other drugs
Dependencies on alcohol, tobacco or other types of drugs are complicated illnesses that present unique threats to women's health. Many people use tobacco, alcohol or other drugs to feel better. But, these chemicals will actually make you more depressed.
Parents who drink, smoke or use other drugs are just one of the reasons why teenagers and young women develop problems with alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. Other risks include:
- peer pressure
- a high level of family conflict
- a history of physical or sexual abuse
- targeted marketing by alcohol and tobacco manufacturers
- poor school performance
Not only is it illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to be drinking, it is also very dangerous. Many underage drinkers die not only in car crashes, but also from alcohol poisoning, violence and other alcohol-related accidents. Teens who drink heavily are more likely to be sexually active and put themselves at risk for contracting sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy. Tobacco use increases your risk not only for cancer, heart disease and other problems, but also poses particular dangers to female reproductive organs.
You may be addicted to alcohol, tobacco and/or other drugs if you recognize any of the following behaviors or descriptions about yourself:
- you have a strong craving to drink, smoke, or take other drugs
- you have been unable to limit your drinking on any given occasion
- you are hiding medication or sneaking pills
- you have problems with your job, schoolwork or relationships because of alcohol or other drug use
- you have "blackouts" or don't remember things after you drink or take other drugs.
If you recognize some of these behaviors in yourself, it's time to talk with a health care professional about getting help.
Copyright 2003 National Women's Health Resource Center Inc. (NWHRC)