Recognizing Eating Disorders Among Teens – Therapists Warn Us Of The Danger



You might think that eating disorders are just happening in adults, but it is also common for teens to develop this. There has been a great influence on teens wherein they need to be in a certain weight or a particular body shape just to fit in. Mostly in girls, they have been pressured to fit in and look for ways to get the body they want. Therapists and other mental health experts say this is becoming a mental health issue and can be very dangerous.

It might seem harmless at first, but a 15-year-old girl tried to self-induced vomit because her friends do the same and they “seem” fine. She did it again after eating lunch at school and home until this became a ritual. Also, a boy who has always been on the heavier side chose only to eat salads and run a mile or two every day. He was also partnering this with laxatives to keep his weight down. This worked, and he lost weight but became ill and needed to be hospitalized.

These scenarios are not unusual especially in teens who grew up with the influence of technology and social media. It is a scary thought that at such a young age, they can be this conscious with their image. What’s worse is that they would do unhealthy things to their bodies just to be accepted by society.

Today, more than 90% of teens who have developed eating disorders are girls. This does not mean that teenage boys are not body-conscious; they try to be fit by dieting and exercising every day. In this article, we will be discussing all kinds of eating disorders, and how we can help our teens to avoid developing one or to seek treatment if they have it.


What Is An Eating Disorder?

Eating disorders are extreme disturbances in eating habits. This is a psychological problem that most girls have. Anorexia is an eating disorder where a person does not have a healthy weight and look very skinny for they eat only little and exercise excessively. Bulimia nervosa, on the other hand, is extreme bouts of binge eating followed by self-induced vomiting or excessive drinking of laxatives to keep the food out of their body.  All of these are unhealthy and will prevent the body from functioning correctly.

Anorexia nervosa affects one out of every one hundred girls in the United States alone. Almost 15% of the girls are underweight or are below their ideal weight. These girls believe that their self-worth is connected with their body image.

This goes out to the person who is secretly struggling. The one who on the outside appears to have everything together, yet underneath it all, feels completely trapped. — Jennifer Rollin MSW, LCSW-C

Meanwhile, bulimia starts in a girl’s late teens to adulthood stage in life. This is usually done in secret and is harder for family members to spot the problem until it becomes too apparent. Here are early warning signs of bulimia:

  • They are overly preoccupied with becoming overweight.
  • They usually follow a strict diet, but binge eats after.
  • They overeat when distressed.
  • They feel out of control.
  • They suddenly disappear after a meal.
  • They may develop substance abuse.
  • They consume large amounts of laxatives.
  • They may exercise excessively.
  • Their menstruation is irregular.

Causes Of Eating Disorders

Many teens have been influenced by the beauty industry to look a certain way or a body goal that is impossible to achieve. This has been a big issue ever since, and celebrities and influencers are now changing the way these teens think. Also, there are peer pressure and bullying involved, especially in school, and they are scared not to fit in. There might be issues in the family, medical history, and other mental health issues in the family that can trigger these actions and turn them into illness.

Symptoms Of Eating Disorders

  • Unnatural body image
  • Skipping meals if possible
  • Frequently checking on their weight
  • Excessive exercising
  • A noticeable change in their weight
  • Insomnia
  • Constipation
  • Skin rashes and dry skin
  • Unhealthy teeth and gums
  • Thinning hair and brittle nails
  • High interest in exercising

The society we live in is perpetuating an orthorexic mindset by perpetuating fear-based thoughts around food. — Dawn Delgado LMFT, CEDS-S

Low self-esteem, peer pressure, or depression can trigger this condition. These teens suddenly become moody and distance themselves from family and friends. They are sensitive to criticism and are not satisfied with their weight. Problems like these become worse because parents fail to notice that there is something wrong with their child.


Treatments For Eating Disorders

If your child shows these symptoms, it is best to talk to your child and accompany them to a psychologist so you can understand what is going on. There will be treatments, therapies, and rehabilitation for your child so they can recover and be healthy. Each treatment differs from each child, so there will always be a trial and error process until you find the one that works perfectly.

Eating Disorders And Overall Health

Eating disorders do affect the health of a person. By not digesting the food properly and trying to get rid of the food instantly, the body does not have a chance of digesting the food. It the body does not absorb the nutrition from the food properly, and that causes the body to collapse and the person to be hospitalized.

 Those of us who treat eating disorders know full well the seduction that diets have over our patients. — Judy Scheel Ph.D., L.C.S.W., CEDS

Seeking Help

If you feel like your child is acting strange and displaying symptoms of eating disorders, it is best to seek help immediately. Do not ignore these signs and make sure always to keep them in check to see if they are doing well and are happy with their lives.