Susanne de Munck Mortier
4 min readJun 29, 2020

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Highly sensitive teens ‘feeding’ themselves with eating disorders.

I know this blog title sounds counterintuitive and yet can feel true to so many highly sensitive teens and their caring, observing parents.

When a parent of a highly sensitive teen is not a highly sensitive person themselves, it can especially be difficult to understand their complex inner world.

Sometimes, these sensitive children also don’t open up with the sensitive parent who ‘feels’ their needs by nature.

Don’t take it personally, your teen might mentally carry the world on their shoulders and that sometimes shows in their non- verbal language by lowering their shoulders or often supporting their head with their hand.

My sensitive clients can think daily about the unfortunate global environment, an unstable society, animal cruelty and it can feel like an overwhelming short circuit when you empathically care so much.

Sometimes your child can repetitively think about a past event that seemed almost trivial to you… yet your child still carries feelings of guilt, shame or injustice around it. What might seem trivial to you might certainly not be trivial to them. Your sensitive child might perceive a situation in a totally different depth. It is their truth at that moment…it is exactly how it feels for them and maybe not how you see things..

The emotions around these issues can become huge recurring thoughts and patterns in their, already by nature, busy minds.

During or after processing a situation, sensitive people can have the tendency ‘to punish’ themselves in one way or another. Sometimes even before other people would even think about ‘punishing’ them…because for the other person it might seem trivial. Not rarely, yet not always, can highly sensitive people ‘punish’ themselves by feeding their ‘being’ with an eating disorder or something else. They feel so immensely responsible for the world.

Let’s add the pressure of performing in today’s society, unreasonable social media expectations, systems that can sometimes feel like ancient jails to a sensitive person. The sensitive children that grow up in this day of age have to deal with other issues than we did back then.

Your sensitive teen would also like to live a lighter life and have a more opened inner world, but at the same time they feel responsible to automatically pick up the emotional burdens for others from deep, caring, compassionate beliefs about justice.

Sometimes so much that they can’t ground or can’t stay in their own body anymore and aren’t aware that they float above ground, in their own body, through life.

Maybe you have already heard of the fact that in science we call the highly sensitive people the orchids. The beautiful delicate orchid flowers also have their roots ‘a bit’ above the ground. To a highly sensitive person it can feel the same when floating in your own body and not being grounded. One of the things that they need to learn are strategies to implement extra delicate self care, so they can thrive and flourish as the delicate valuable beautiful orchid flower they actually are.

Sensitive people simply aren’t always aware of this phenomenon of not being grounded and compassionately just keep going for the sake of the good cause. Especially when your child doesn’t know that he/she is in fact a highly sensitive person, because your child might be convinced that he/she is a failure, a weak meaningless amoeba and ‘nothing ever goes right’.

What happens next is that highly sensitive people shift gears to live solely on willpower. They just don’t know yet that willpower is only 5% of the complete picture when you want to achieve certain goals in life. If the sensitive teens have something in their mind, they will take that route one way or the other to achieve that goal, even when it is damaging to themselves but still beneficial for the other person. They efface themselves without too much effort. As parents, we also need to be reminded of the fact that you first have to take care of yourself and in that way you can be completely ‘present’ for your loved ones. So, loving parents, take a minute to explore if you are actually positively ‘feeding’ yourself first.

It can be so tempting for a parent to desperately want to explore your child’s inner belief patterns and correct them, when you have the feeling that something is “off” in the ‘eating section’ of your child’s life.

Your child might have the feeling that they can fill that void of not feeling ‘in control’ with immense willpower when caring for society, the environment and their inner world. Your sensitive child is simply surviving by ‘feeding’ that void within themselves with the one thing that they are actually still in control of when the world clearly doesn’t make sense to them….for example, the way they feed themselves…so they can finally have oversight and some control over all the stimuli that faces them in the world.

You can help your child by finding the entrance to calm their talented nervous system, which is wired differently than non highly sensitive people.

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