Eating disorders are serious mental health conditions that can affect anyone, but they often develop during the teen years. While there is no one cause for eating disorders, there are several risk factors that can increase your child’s chances of developing one. Signs that your child may have an eating disorder include drastic weight changes, constantly talking about food and dieting, withdrawing from friends and activities, and exhibiting obsessive behaviors around food or weight. If you suspect that your child has an eating disorder, it’s important to get them help right away.
If you’re concerned that your teen might have an eating disorder, it’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms, and seek treatment as soon as possible. There is no single cure for eating disorders, but with early diagnosis and treatment, most teens can make a full recovery. In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at eating disorders in teenagers, including the causes, signs, and treatment options.
In This Article
What is eating disorder in teens?
Eating disorder in teens is usually characterized by a persistent disturbance in eating behavior. This may involve restriction of food intake or severe overeating, as well as extreme weight fluctuations. Teens with a binge eating disorder often have a distorted body image and believe that they are overweight or too thin, regardless of their actual body size. They may also engage in excessive dieting, excessive exercise, or purging through vomiting or use of laxatives or diuretics.
Many teens with a binge eating disorder also suffer from depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Eating disorders can have serious physical and psychological consequences and can be life-threatening.
The vast majority of the time people with eating disorders are females because they are more affected by societal pressure to look like models. Anorexia typically begins at age 14-15 (despite the prevailing belief that it only affects pre-pubescent girls). And it affects 1% of women around the world; 60% of these females die from starvation-related causes. Males who have eating disorders should be screened for muscle atrophy. Due to general loss in body water content, calcium deficiencies can affect bone growth, hormonal changes related to testosterone levels.
What causes to eating disorder?
The eating disorder can have different causes, but often it is a combination of psychological, social, and biological factor. Below we have listed some of the most common causes of eating disorders in teenagers.
1. Psychological factors:
i) Emotional health: Finding the exact cause of eating disorders is often difficult, but many experts believe that psychological factors such as emotional health problems. It may be included family history or other incidents which had happened in the child’s life.
ii) Low self-esteem: Teens with low self-esteem may be more likely to develop the risk factor of binge eating disorder. They may use food as a way to control their weight or feel better about themselves. They may be very critical of themselves and believe that they are not good enough unless they are thin.
2. Biological factors:
i) Genetics: Some family members have a genetic tendency to the development of eating disorders. Also, some women experience difficulties during pregnancy or after birth which may lead to changes in brain chemistry that can increase the risk of developing an eating disorder.
ii) Hormones: It has been found that hormones play a role in the development of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa which are the common types of eating disorders. For example, girls often have their periods before boys and may be more likely to develop an eating disorder at this time due to changes in hormone levels. They starts avoid food intake which causes their healthy weight to drop.
i) Peer pressure: Teens may feel pressure to be thin from their friends or classmates. Some boys and girls may feel like they need to have a certain body type in order to fit in and be accepted. And the development of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa is more common in socially isolated teenagers.
ii) Trauma: The life-threatening experience like physical or sexual abuse can also lead to the development of an binge eating disorder. Teens who are bullied may be more likely to develop an eating disorder as a way to try and control their weight or body shape.
What are the signs of eating disorders?
According to a mental health professional, hiding food, a lose weight, gaining weight, stick with physical appearance all are common eating disorders signs off in early adulthood. The risk factors of other eating disorders include troubled family dynamics, depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, physical illness with associated weight gain. Here below we have discussed some common teen eating disorders signs and they are:
1. Skipping meals:
It’s a sign of eating disorders in teens and an unhealthy lifestyle which is also associated with teenagers. Especially in teenage girls, it can be dangerous for their health. Binge eating to gain weight is also common among female teenagers who want to become obese. They eat a lot in a short period and it can be harmful to their health.
2. Obsession with body shapes:
Though teenage boys and girls usually have an obsession with body shapes. If a female teenager starts exercise excessively or makes their routine different for this purpose that is considered as one of the symptoms of an eating disorder. This could lead to mental health issues and repeated episodes of binge eating.
3. Dry or scaly skin:
Another sign of eating disorders is unhealthy skin. When skin doesn’t get the essential oils and nutrients it needs from food, it starts to look dry and scaly. This is often a sign that someone isn’t eating enough or is eating the wrong things. Low self-esteem will generate eating disorders symptoms in teens because they are fed up with their skin problems. And this eating behavior usually continues for months.
4. Amenorrhea or infertility:
This is another common sign of eating disorders in teens, especially in teenage girls. When a girl’s period stops or becomes irregular, it can be a sign that she is suffering from an eating disorder. This happens because the body isn’t getting the nutrients it needs, which can lead to problems with fertility.
5. Excessive exercise and frequent weight check:
Doing excessive exercise regularly and checking their weight very often are the signs of eating disorders in teens. It means that they are too conscious about their normal weight and body shape. Teenagers who have a binge eating disorder usually want to be thin and fit. So, they do excessive exercises to weight loss and check their weight frequently to see whether they are losing or gaining weight.
6. Constantly dieting:
Teens who have eating disorders usually become obsessed with their food and their dieting habits. They start to think about food all the time and what they are going to eat next. This unhealthy obsession can lead to serious mental health problems. In this situation, teens family member and friends should be very careful and try to talk with that teen about their eating habits.
How to treat eating disorders?
As well eating disorders treated by dieticians who give the parents a program of appropriate nutrition and food to their children, they should have psychological treatment as well. Here are some treating ways by the national eating disorders association and they are:
1. Nutrition counseling:
The eating disorders diagnosed are often the result of a disturbed relationship with food. Counseling can help to change the way young people relate to food, and teach them how to have a healthy relationship with it. Eating behaviors and attitudes about food are usually assessed and worked on in counseling. It can help change distorted body image, perfectionism, emotional eating, and binge eating disorders behavior.
2. Group or family therapy:
When a parent and young person come together to talk about their relationship with food and feelings, they can gain support and understanding from one another. Therapy for both parents and teens helps them recognize that the eating disorder is not all of who they are as individuals, but something created by their interrelationship. Family relationships with teens also help them to get through emotional problems.
When someone has an eating disorder, it can cause them to think and act in self-defeating ways. Therapy helps identify the reasons the young person has for wanting to change whichever is related to body shape, diet pills, etc. It also helps them find their ways of handling difficult thoughts and feelings without turning to food or starving themselves as coping mechanisms.
In some cases, young people with eating disorders need to be hospitalized so that they can be supervised and their health can be monitored. Treatment in a hospital setting may include intravenous feeding, nutritional counseling, and therapy. Sometimes gaining weight rapidly can be a danger for people with eating disorders, so hospitalization can help to ensure that weight gain occurs safely and healthily.
In some cases, medication may be prescribed to help young people with eating disorders. This could include antidepressants, mood stabilizers, or medications that help to control binge eating. It is important to note that medication should not be used as the sole treatment for an eating disorder, but rather as part of a comprehensive program that also includes therapy and nutritional deficiencies counseling.
How to prevent a eating disorder?
Although for prevention of eating disorders in teens there is no definite answer, there are some general things that could be done. One is to promote healthy body image and positive self-esteem in youngsters. This can be done through education and positive role models. Below we have discussed some preventive ways from these disorders and they are:
1. By Encourage healthy eating habits:
By encouraging normal eating habits that are healthy and well-balanced, you can prevent many teenagers from eating disorders. This is because such habits promote the intake of food items which contribute to overall good health. Encourage children to eat healthy snacks instead of calorie-rich junk foods. Healthy eating habits include eating three well-balanced meals per day, with an adequate amount of fiber, carbohydrates, proteins, and vitamins. The meal should contain different flavors so that children do not get bored.
2. By encouraging talk and share:
Talking and sharing with children about their problems could also give you insight into whether your child is depressed or has any other mental disorder like obsessive-compulsive disorder, etc. If they do, then take them to a psychiatrist soon to be treated before the condition turns into an eating disorder for which it may become hard to treat later on.
3. By providing proper education:
Teenagers are very conscious about their looks, clothes, hairstyles and other aspects which make them look good. They should be given proper education on how to carry themselves confidently. This will reduce body image problems which could result in most common eating disorders later on. For your child, unhealthy behavior of avoiding food or severe weight loss could be due to some other problem.
4. Foster self-esteem or self confidence:
Some teenagers develop eating disorders because they have low self-esteem or are not confident about themselves. Parents can help to build healthy self-esteem and self-confidence in their children by providing positive reinforcement. Praise your child when they display qualities that you admire, even if they are small things. This will make them feel good about themselves and will help them believe in their abilities. Another way is to encourage children to try new things and take up activities that they enjoy so that they can gain self-confidence naturally.
5. By discussing Celebrity influence and media:
As well according to the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-5), the clinical diagnosis of an eating disorder can be made in individuals who meet the persistent restriction of energy intake relative to requirements, leading to significantly low body weight in the context of age, sex, and developmental stage. Intense fear of weight gain or being “fat,” intense desire to lose weight. It has been observed that celebrities and models have a lot of influence on teenagers. Hence, they should be educated about the effects of following particular lifestyles and eating habits as recommended by these public figures.
The Bottom Line
Therefore, eating disorders are serious mental illnesses that can have lifelong consequences. So it is important to be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of an eating disorder. Early intervention for these serious ailments has been shown to reduce or even eliminate many of the long-term effects caused by this disease.
Though the best way to prevent eating disorders is by teaching teens about how their brain works. And what emotions they may feel in the presence of certain foods or situations, and why it’s important for them to eat healthy food. We need to understand their causes, signs, and prevention methods so that we can be proactive with our teen’s children or ourselves when it comes to this serious issue. If you have any queries regarding the above context then just share with us through a comment below.