Teen Eating Disorders
What are teen eating disorders? What do teen statistics show? What are the signs or syptoms of teen eating disorders? This article will review these questions plus preventing teen eating disorders and getting treatment for an eating disorder.
Eating disorders affect about 1% of America's teens. Out of an average-sized high school class of 400, that means that about four of the students have an eating disorder (1). While eating disorders are more common in females, the number of males with eating disorders (especially anorexia) is on the rise. Learning about eating disorders is the first step toward recognizing and combating eating disorders in your teen.
What is an eating disorder?
An eating disorder is considered a psychological problem. It involves an unhealthy obsession with food, whether the obsession is limiting intake, or whether the food obsession involves overindulging regularly. The most common eating disorders are linked with body image, and most teens with eating disorders feel that they must take drastic measures to lose weight (2).
The three most common teen eating disorders are:
1. Anorexia nervosa
2. Bulimia nervosa
3. Binging eating (also called compulsive eating)
All three of these eating disorders can have unhealthy consequences, creating nutrient problems, growth problems, and weight problems in teens. Weighing too little is a weight problem, as is rapid and excessive weight gain.
Other eating disorders include pica (eating non-nutrient substances such as dirt and paint chips) and rumination (repeated regurgitation resulting in weight loss). These, however, are extremely rare in teens? mainly affecting infants and small children.
Health problems associated with teen eating disorders
The teen years are important in development. The changes that the body undergoes during these years require good nutrition (3). In addition to being too thin to be healthy, the foundations for brittle bones, iron deficiency and other problems related to a lack of nutrients can be laid during these years. In cases of anorexia and bulimia, the desire to become thin outweighs healthy decisions. And in some cases, the psychological body image is so negative that a teen always "feels fat," even when one is skinny.
Another problem is yo-yo dieting. This is especially prevalent in binge eating disorder. The teen binges, but feels guilty afterward and goes on a starvation diet. After a few days, or even weeks, the teen feels the compulsion to eat again. The binging can last several days, and result in weight gain, after a dramatic weight loss. Yo-yo dieting represents a significant health risk to the developing body (4).
Common signs of a teen with an eating disorder
Each eating disorder has its own possible signs. However, all three types of eating disorders common in teens include extreme concern over body weight, as well as feelings of shame associated with weight gain. Additionally, repeated cycles of "being on a diet" can be an indicator of any of the following eating disorders (5).
• Refuses to allow the body weight to rise above a minimally healthy weight, and often refuses to allow it to rise even to the level of minimally healthy
• Reduction in, or complete loss of, menstrual periods
• Feels overweight, regardless of dramatic weight loss
• Binges and then purges the calories through induced vomiting, laxative abuse, extreme exercise or diet pills.
• Reddened or dry index fingers (indicating induced vomiting)
• Out-of-control feelings when binging
Binge eating disorder:
• Regularly eats beyond the point of feeling full (binging), but does not purge
• Dramatic weight gain
• Feelings of shame and depression related to eating habits
Preventing teen eating disorders
Because the factors at the root of most teen eating disorders?negative self-esteem, cultural pressure to look a certain way, shame about one's body?are complex, it is important to recognize that preventing eating disorders involves compassion and understanding. You can help your teen develop healthy attitudes about proper nutrition, appropriate exercise and acceptance of his or her body by teaching good eating habits (6). Additionally, nurturing your teen's self-esteem and avoiding comments about weight can help prevent an eating disorder.
Getting help for an eating disorder
Therapy can help a teen recover from an eating disorder. However, your help as a parent is necessary. Medical and psychological services will likely be necessary, as well as plenty of loving support from friends and family (1). The key is helping the affected teen understand that he or she is loved, no matter how they look.
1. kidshealth.org/teen/your_mind/mental_health/eat_disorder.html answers.com/topic/eating-disorder
Anorexic teens refers to teenagers who suffer from anorexia nervosa, which is one of the most common teen eating disorders. In this article we will review anorexic teen statistics, warning signs, causes, factors, symptoms, effects and treatment of teen anorexia.
Anorexia Nervosa is a serious and potentially life-threatening eating disorder, which is characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss. Teenage girls are more likely to have anorexia than any other group.
Teen anorexia, or anorexia nervosa, is one of the most common eating disordersamong teens. Anorexia means that a troubled teen is starving her or himself. Teens with anorexia are obsessed with their body image. Anorexic troubled teens hardly eat anything, and have a distorted view of themselves so that they always think they are fat even if they become dangerously thin. Teen anorexia can cause serious health problems or death, so troubled teens with anorexia need to get medical treatment to recover from their eating disorder.
Eating disorders such as anorexia are most common among teens, though eating disorders can begin earlier or later in life. About 1 percent of teens have an eating disorder. Teen anorexia is most common among teen girls, but about 10 percent of troubled teens with anorexia are boys, and teen boys with eating disorders often go undiagnosed and untreated. Between 5 and 20 percent of teens with anorexia will die because of the disorder.
Some signs that a teen has anorexia include:
• Losing weight even after he or she is underweight
• Fear of being fat, and belief that he or she is fat even if he or she is underweight
• Denial that he or she is underweight
• Obsession with what he or she eats, especially obsessively counting calories, weighing food, or developing strict eating rituals
• Eating hardly anything at all and saying he or she is never hungry
• Excessive exercising to lose weight
• For teen guys, an obsession with looking athletic
• Staying away from social activities, especially those involving food
Some of these symptoms, such as social withdrawal, losing too much weight, or lack of appetite can also indicate other health problems in troubled teens, includingdepression, bulimia, or other illnesses. Teens with these symptoms need to be diagnosed by a medical professional.
The causes of anorexia are unknown, but some factors seem to make teens more prone to anorexia, such as:
• Feeling out of control, and wanting to control their bodies
• Fear of the changes that occur during puberty, such as natural and healthy weight gain
• Role models such as celebrities who are excessively thin
• Mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, or obsessive compulsive disorder
• Family members who are overly concerned with weight
• Genetics ? Involvement in sports that stress ideal weights, such as gymnastics, ice-skating, ballet, track, and wrestling
• Peer pressure from someone they know who is anorexic
Anorexia can do serious harm to a teen's body, sometimes ending in death. Someeffects of anorexia are:
• Malnutrition and starvation
• Lack of energy
• Susceptibility to injury, especially due to brittle bones
• Damage to the heart, liver, and kidneys
• Lowered blood pressure, pulse, and breathing rate
• Muscle weakness
• Anemia (lack of red blood cells)
• Swollen joints
• Light-headedness and poor concentration
• Poor performance in sports or school
• Loss of hair
• Broken fingernails
• Dry hair and skin
• Growth of soft hair all over the body
• Depression and withdrawal
• In teen girls, loss of menstrual cycle
Teens with anorexia need medical treatment without delay so they can recover from their eating disorder. If you, your teen, or a friend may have anorexia, find help immediately. Teens with anorexia should be treated by doctors, mental health professionals, and dieticians. Individual therapy is necessary to help the teen learn better eating habits and a better attitude about food and body image, and family therapy can help the troubled teen to have a supportive environment during her or his recovery.
Anorexic Teens Sources:
• Nemours Foundation, TeensHealth, Eating Disorders: Anorexia and Bulimia [online]
• National Eating Disorders Association, Anorexia Nervosa [online]
Bulimia Nervosa is a serious and potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by a cycle of bingeing and self-induced vomiting. This article will review bulimia statistics, symptoms and treatment of teen bulimia, and how to prevent teen bulimia.
What is Bulimia
According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services' Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) (1), bulimia is an eating disorder that mostly affects young women between the ages of 12 and 25 of normal or near normal weight. Characteristics of bulimia include episodic binge eating followed by feelings of guilt and self-condemnation.
Teens suffering from bulimia often show signs of the eating disorder by eating a large amount of food in a small time frame and immediately purging themselves of the food ingested by causing themselves to vomit. Other ways the bulimic uses to rid the body of food eaten during a binge include laxatives, diuretics (water pills), and fasting. Often called the "binge/purge" cycle, this behavior is brought about by an extreme fear of gaining weight.
Treatment of Bulimia
Treatment for teens suffering from bulimia has been advancing in recent years. In 2002, the American Psychological Association reported on a study conducted in 2000 about two types of psychotherapy that have met success in the treatment of bulimia(2). One type focuses on the symptoms of bulimia while the other aims to address issues the bulimic may have with relationships.
Cognitive behavioral therapy helps the bulimic address the symptoms of bulimia and focuses on the negative thoughts associated with their weight and appearance. This therapy also helps guide the bulimic to make positive diet changes.
Interpersonal psychotherapy aims to improve the worth of the bulimic's current relationships and to improve any negative aspects of those relationships by dealing with issues directly. This therapy also helps the bulimic to form a wider social network.
A study reported in the August 2000 American Journal of Psychiatry (Vol. 157, No. 8) reported that bulimics who responded well to either of these types of therapy did so within the first six to eight sessions. The report further states that randomly selected patients who did not respond to the two types of therapy did respond to antidepressant medication such as Prozac.
Studies suggest that bulimia is manifested in women between the ages of 18 and 24. Psychologist Daniel Le Grange, Ph.D., however, believes that by exploring bulimic patients' histories more thoroughly, the cycle of bingeing and purging often begins as early as 15 or 16.
How to Prevent Bulimia
According to the Public Broadcasting System's Perfect Illusions website (3), there are steps parents, teachers, coaches and others who work with teens can take to help avoid bulimia. A few of these include:
• Modifying and adapting expectations you have of your teen.
• Examining your own perceptions and attitudes towards food, body image, physical appearance and exercise.
• Do not give off the message that you cannot do activities such as dance, swim, or wear certain types of clothing because of the way you look or how much you weigh.
• Encourage eating in response to physical hunger.
• Encourage eating a variety of foods.
• Help teens to appreciate their bodies and encourage them to engage in physical activity.
• Do not use food as a reward or punishment.
• Do not criticize your own weight or the way you look by avoiding the use of such phrases as "I'm too fat" or "I've got to lose weight."
• Love, accept, and acknowledge the teen's value verbally.
1. Cited in "Teen Eating Disorder Statistics on Anorexia Bulimia," Family First Aid Help For Troubled Teens, www.familyfirstaid.org/eating-disorders.html
2. Tori DeAngelis, "Promising Treatments for Anorexia and Bulimia: Research Boosts Support for Tough-To-Treat Eating Disorders," Monitor on Psychology 33, no. 3 (2002), www.apa.org/monitor/mar02/promising.html.
3. 3. Public Broadcasting Service. "Perfect Illusions: Eating Disorders and the Family, Prevention Strategies," www.pbs.org/perfectillusions/eatingdisorders/preventing_strategies.html