Path To Improved Health
If your teen has an eating disorder, the sooner you do something the better. By getting help early, your teen can prevent the health risks associated with eating disorders.
Talk to your family doctor. He or she may make several recommendations. He or she may want to talk with your teen. Your doctor may also do medical tests to make sure a physical issue isnt your teens underlying health problem. Also, a teen who has an eating disorder needs professional help to treat his or her body and mind. Often, teens need counseling to talk through how they feel about their weight and other issues in their life. Additionally, your doctor may refer your teen to a dietitian to learn how to develop healthy eating habits.
Also, its very important to be sure your teen feels loved and supported by family and friends during treatment for an eating disorder. Feeling secure and accepted can help form a strong foundation so your teen can begin to learn new, healthier habits.
Types Of Eating Disorders
The main types of eating disorder include:
- anorexia nervosa characterised by restricted eating, loss of weight and a fear of putting on weight
- bulimia nervosa periods of binge eating , followed by attempts to compensate by excessively exercising, vomiting, or periods of strict dieting. Binge eating is often accompanied by feelings of shame and being ‘out of control’
- binge eating disorder characterised by recurrent periods of binge eating . Feelings of guilt, disgust and depression can follow binge eating episodes. Binge eating does not involve compensatory behaviours
- other specified feeding or eating disorder feeding or eating behaviours that cause the individual distress and impairment, but do not meet criteria for the first three eating disorders.
Understanding Food And Body Image Struggles
What does it mean to struggle with body image? According to the American Psychological Association, body image is defined as both the mental picture you form of your own body and the attitude you have towards its characteristics. Many of us internalize messages from a young age that can lead to either a positive or negative body image.
- If you have a positive body image, you have a clear, realistic perception of your body. You see and accept your body as it truly is and youre aware that your physical appearance doesnt determine your value as a person.
- Having a negative body image means youre likely to have a distorted perception of your body. You may have trouble accepting how your body looks and how much it affects your self-worth. If you struggle with body image, you may feel deep shame, anxiety, and self-consciousness related to your physical appearance.
For those who suffer from eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, emotions and sense of self-worth are directly, and disproportionately linked to weight, and therefore, food intake. National surveys estimate that in the US, 20 million women and 10 million men will develop an eating disorder at some point in their lives. And according to the National Institute of Mental Health, eating disorders are most common in teens or young adults specifically young women. But eating disorders can also affect people of all ages, backgrounds, body weights, and ethnicities.
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Eating Disorders In Children And Teens
Eating disorders can cause serious health problems for children and teens. Here is what to watch for.
- Anorexia, a condition in which a child refuses to eat adequate calories out of an intense and irrational fear of becoming fat
- Bulimia, a condition in which a child grossly overeats and then purges the food by vomiting or using laxatives to prevent weight gain
- Binge eating, a condition in which a child may gorge rapidly on food, but without purging
In children and teens, eating disorders can overlap. For example, some children alternate between periods of anorexia and bulimia.
Eating disorders typically develop during adolescence or early adulthood. However, they can start in childhood, too. Females are much more vulnerable. Only an estimated 5% to 15% of people with anorexia or bulimia are male. With binge eating, the number rises to 35% male.
What causes eating disorders?
Doctors aren’t certain what cause eating disorders. They suspect a combination of biological, behavioral, and social factors. For instance, young people may be influenced by cultural images that favor bodies too underweight to be healthy. Also, many children and teens with eating disorders struggle with one or more of the following problems:
The Different Causes Of Eating Disorders
Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.
When a person gets sick, it’s natural to want to understand why. With eating disorders, which are associated with many myths and negative stereotypes, the question of causation can be especially confusing.
The culture at large commonly blames eating disorders on oversimplified explanations, such as the medias promotion of unrealistically slender models or on bad parenting. Even some health professionals buy into these explanations.
But research shows that familieslongtime scapegoatsdo not cause eating disorders, at least not in any simple, straightforward manner.
While growing up in a dysfunctional home could increase the risk for a number of psychological problems, including eating disorders, it does not condemn a child to an eating disorder or any other psychological disorder.
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Signs That Could Indicate An Eating Disorder
Just as no two girls have the same risk factors that could lead to an eating disorder, there is also a range of signs and symptoms that may indicate a teen has an eating disorder. Teen girls who display one or more of the following signs should be observed carefully it may be beneficial to open up the lines of communication and discuss the disordered thoughts and behaviors.
- Often complains and/or worries about being fat
- Checks in the mirror often for flaws
- Focuses an excessive amount on food
- Eats more food during a snack or a meal that is considered to be normal
- Skips meals
- Expresses negative emotions, such as disgust, guilt, shame or depression, about her eating habits
- Eats in secret, eats only by herself or makes excuses for not eating
- Goes to the bathroom right after she eats or even during a meal
- Uses enemas, laxatives or diuretics after she eats
Teenage Eating Disorders Statistics
Many patterns of disordered eating first emerge in the teenage years. Though statistics indicate that some eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa may be becoming more common, eating disorders are still relatively rare conditions. Studies have estimated the prevalence of eating disorders in teens as approximately:
- 0.3% for anorexia
- 0.9% for bulimia
- 1.6% for binge eating disorder
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Warning Signs Of Eating Disorders In Children And Teens
Because each child is different and each human body develops on a unique timeline, it can be hard to recognize eating disorders in teens. Some adolescents may not express their frustrations or concerns about their body image. Yet, other teens may openly make comments or create social media posts about feeling fat, or they may be super-focused on dieting and wanting to lose weight unnecessarily. The truth is, adolescents with an eating disorder may often look no different than their peers. Therefore, parents and families must rely on their observations of changes in behavior, which can include:
- Changes in Eating Patterns and Behaviors. This can be when a child or teen starts to refuse certain foods or works to avoid social situations where food may be involved. Others may be eating secretly or alone or using the bathroom directly after meals. We encourage parents to use the behavior change as a window of opportunity to ask their child what has changed for them. Here are some tips on how to talk to someone about eating disorders.
- Body Comparison. Comparison is a normal part of development, and most kids start comparing themselves to others by third grade. However, if youve noticed that your childs comparisons impact their self-esteem, confidence, and ability to engage in life, they may be struggling with body image concerns, which warrants a closer look by a licensed professional.
How To Create A Healthier Relationship With Food And Body Image
Experts find that its helpful to introduce and practice new thought patterns related to your body and your self-image. These could include:
- Appreciate all of the activities your body can do, and celebrate the amazingness of what your body does for you
- Practice seeing yourself as a whole person by keeping a list of things that you like about yourself that dont relate to your weight or body shape
- Remind yourself that confidence, self-acceptance, and openness make you beautiful
- Surround yourself with positive people who value you, and others, for personality and not appearance
- Look for, become critical of, and protest social media messages that make you feel bad about your body
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Social Or Environmental Risk Factors
Social or environmental risk factors in the development of an eating disorder may include:
- being teased or bullied
- a belief that high expectations from family and others must be met
- major life changes such as family break-up, or the accumulation of many minor stressors
- peer pressure to behave in particular ways
- a parent or other role model who consistently diets or who is unhappy with their body
- media and advertising images of the ideal body size and shape as slim and fit
- a cultural tendency to judge people by their appearance.
What Do We Know About Eating Disorders In Teens
The teenage years are a time of rapid physical, mental and social change and can present both opportunities and challenges. Some teens are able to manage this time of transition very well while others may struggle to adapt.
Teens who develop eating disorders are showing signs of a personal struggle.
All teens have worries and concerns. However, teens with an eating disorder may be experiencing worries and fears that intensify and progressively take over their lives.
They may be worried about not having friends, how to manage the demands of school and part-time work, their appearance, a family separation, dating, bullying, future plans, etc. These worries may cause them to feel that they are “not good enough” which may make them anxious, angry or sad. They may become stressed and feel they are losing their self-confidence and sense of control over their lives.
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Were Here For You And Your Child
It can be difficult to know when teen eating disorder treatment is needed. While changes to the human body are natural and expected parts of development and growth, it can often be a very uncomfortable time for many adolescents and their families.
We believe that families do not cause eating disorders, but do play an essential role in supporting recovery. Our treatment programs also provide support for family members caring for and encouraging their loved ones in recovery.
Our teen eating disorder treatment program is designed to reach young people where they are. Our flexible treatment options allow them to continue to be a kid by attending school and social events by staying at home while also receiving treatment. Modeled after our adult Intensive Outpatient Program for eating disorders, our dynamic treatment team is here to help.
Dont wait. Research shows that early identification and intervention are key to successfully treating eating disorders.
Recognizing Body Image Issues In Teens
Body image issues in teens range in severity, from slightly negative to a fully distorted perception of appearance that can lead to chronic illness. It can be difficult for parents to recognize whether their teenagers behavior constitutes a body image issue, especially if the issue is mild. Nonetheless, because any issue in this area can potentially develop into a serious problem, it is essential for parents to pay attention to their teenage daughters behavior and look for signs of a developing issue.
Some of the signs a teenage girl may be struggling with negative body image, include:
If a parent witnesses any of these symptoms in his or her teenage daughter, seeking professional advice is recommended. A professional can evaluate the teenager, determine whether a problem exists and recommend treatment, if necessary.
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How Do Teens Cope
It is very natural for teens who feel anxious or stressed to seek ways to reduce their negative feelings and thoughts. Some positive coping strategies include participating in sports, creative arts or volunteer work. Each of these strategies can help reduce their stress and increase their self-esteem and resilience.
On the other hand, there are many coping strategies that may actually create more harm than good and interfere with a teen’s daily life, personal development and mental and physical health. Extreme dieting and the pursuit of thinness, along with alcohol and substance abuse or antisocial behaviours, are examples of unproductive and unhealthy strategies teens may choose to feel better, less anxious and more in control. Unfortunately, these behaviours usually cause more distress and isolation and may result in the development of eating disorders and/or addictions.
What Are Symptoms Of Eating Disorders In Teens
Symptoms of eating disorders may include the following:
- A distorted body image
Grunbaum, J Kann, L Kinchen, S et al. Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report Surveillance Summary, 2004.Nattiv, A Agostini, R Drinkwater, B Yeager, K. Clinical Sports Medicine, 1994.Halmi, K et. al. American Journal of Psychiatry, November 2000.Whittal, M Agras, W Gould, R. Behavioral Therapy, 1999.Woodside, D. American Journal of Psychiatry, 2001.American Psychiatric Association Task Force on DSM-IV, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-IV. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Ed, Text Revision, Washington, DC, 2000.Kelley R. Newsweek, Nov. 15, 2006.International Academy of Eating Disorders.National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders.National Eating Disorders Association.
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The Relationship Between Eating Disorders And Body Image
Anorexia is an eating disorder thats directly linked to body image. People who suffer from anorexia have body dysmorphia: a body image thats overwhelmingly negative and often distorted. They see themselves as overweight, even when theyre dangerously thin. They may refuse to eat, causing them to lose large, unhealthy, and sometimes even lethal amounts of weight.
People who suffer from bulimia nervosa also tend to have a negative and distorted body image they eat excessive quantities, then purge their bodies of the food and calories they fear.
Its difficult to untangle body image from food because a negative body image generally entails an intense focus on body weight and shape, as opposed to strength and capability. Because of this, people with a negative body image are at risk of developing an unhealthy relationship to food a relationship that prioritizes weight loss over health and wellness.
Reach Out To Adolescent Wellness Academy Today
If you recognize any signs or causes of eating disorders in adolescents in your teen or a loved one, Adolescent Wellness Academy offers comprehensive eating disorder treatment for adolescents. Our caring professionals understand that each disorder comes with unique causes, health risks and symptoms. We understand that the process of recovery is individualized and needs to be handled differently. This is why we offer evidence-based treatments and therapies to ensure each patient receives the best help on their journey to recovery from a debilitating eating disorder. Reach out today for help.
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Factors Contributing To Eating Disorders In Teenagers
The increase in hormones during puberty bring significant physical, psychological, and emotional changes. Most visible are changes to body composition. Male adolescents typically gain more fat-free body mass during this time, while females gain more fat tissue. These changes in weight are both natural and healthy, but adolescents often feel uncomfortable in their rapidly changing bodies. They may be particularly sensitive to comments about weight or body shape around this time, especially if theyre maturing at a rate that differs from that of their peers.
Bullying is not a problem exclusive to teenagers, but the ridicule may focus more on body and weight as puberty changes become apparent. Verbal and psychological bullying related to appearance can be particularly hurtful to teenagers, an age group that longs for social belonging and connection. To them, larger-size bodies may not fit in and be subject to bullying as a result.
3. Social media
Research suggests a correlation between adolescents social media habits and their disordered eating thoughts and behaviors. The more time an adolescent spends on Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, and Snapchat, one study concludes, the more likely they are to engage in thoughts or behaviors that may indicate an eating disorder. This finding likely has little to do with any social media tool itself, but rather with the focus on appearance and social currency promoted online.
Looking For Signs Of An Eating Disorder
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