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Eating Disorders In Teens

When your child hits the teenage years, he or she will come face to face with issues of self-identity, self-esteem, confidence, peer acceptance and many others. This is an exciting—but uncertain—time in their lives. Teenagers are precarious creatures: they feel a sort of invincibility leading them to take risks even as they are not equipped with enough experience to know where these risks will lead them. In an effort to be accepted in their environment, one of the things that your child might attempt is to control their weight. Some may do this the healthy way such as by exercising or taking on sports, while other may contract eating disorders.
Two of the most common eating disorders affecting teens today include anorexia nervosa (commonly referred to as anorexia) and bulimia nervosa (commonly referred to as bulimia). These eating disorders affect more girls than boys— an overwhelming 90% of those suffering from eating disorders are girls. In fact, one out of seven women in the United States is believed to suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their life. In a 2003 Youth Risk study, 36% of adolescent girls thought of themselves as overweight, while 59% are trying to lose weight.

Teens with anorexia nervosa obsess about the way that they look and often have a distorted self-image. They might think of themselves as fat even though they are of normal body weight, and even as they’re thin, they can’t shake off the feeling that they’re overweight. Because of this, they end up trying to push themselves to a weight that’s far below normal for their body frame. Teens with anorexia nervosa often think that the thinner they are the more they are of worth or the more worthy they are of time and attention. Affected teens will be obsessed about the food that they eat, often subsisting on a specific type of food such as carrot sticks only or lettuce leaves, or diet coke throughout the day. Aside from starving themselves, a teen might also dabble in excessive exercise in order to lose more weight.

A teenager with bulimia nervosa will induce vomiting after meals in order to purge the stomach of food. They still appear to be eating normally, but in fact they get rid of the food before the body gets the chance to absorb it. Like anorexia, teens with bulimia may also dabble excessively in exercise to shake the weight off. Unlike anorexia, teens with bulimia can have eating binges especially when they are under stress. On the surface they might appear to be healthily eating, but behind the bathroom doors there is danger lurking.

Symptoms of eating disorder in teens can include an obsession with body weight, obsession with exercising, skipping meals, irregular meal patterns, an extreme drop in weight, constipation, skin rashes, dental problems, hair and nail problems, and dizzy spells. Teens with bulimia will usually regularly disappear after meals.

These diseases are not physiological problems but are psychological problems. That being said there is no one-pill cure for eating disorders in teens, it is a process that requires a delicate combination of approaches to address underlying psychological issues. It might be hard to treat, but eating disorders are treatable. If you suspect your child to have an eating disorder, it should be addressed right away because eating disorders can lead to many complications and in some cases, even death.