There’s more pressure than ever on teens to be thin. Social media, magazines, and commercials send the message that being extremely thin is the ideal body type.
Many teens experience serious body image issues, which places them at risk of taking drastic measures to slim down. From crash diets to excessive exercise, the pressure to be thin can take a serious toll on a teen’s well-being.
Research suggests about 1% or 2% of all teens develop an eating disorder at one time or another.
Eating disorders often begin in children in as young as 12. Here are the types of eating disorders commonly found in teenagers:
Despite being dangerously thin, teens with anorexia nervosa think they’re overweight. They become obsessed with restricting their food intake. They weigh themselves repeatedly throughout the day and only eat very small quantities of food.
Some teens with anorexia nervosa exercise compulsively as well. They may spend hours working out in an effort to prevent weight gain.
Teens with anorexia nervosa experience serious health problems, such as thinning bones, low blood pressure, and damage to the heart and brain. In severe cases, the consequences can be lethal.
The binge-purge cycle may occur several times a day or several times a week, depending on the severity.
Symptoms of bulimia may include severe dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, decaying teeth, and gastrointestinal problems.
Binge Eating Disorder
Teens with binge eating disorder occasionally eat excessive amounts of food at one time and feel a loss of control over eating. Unlike bulimia, however, they don’t purge or fast afterward. Most teens with binge eating disorders are overweight.
Teens who binge eat are at a higher risk of developing high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.
People often binge eat out of an emotion, perhaps when they are feeling stressed or upset. The individual feels comfort when they eat, but after the binge, they tend to feel guilty and shame.
They tend to keep their binge eating habits as secretive as possible. You may find large quantities of food missing or you may discover food hidden in your teen’s room.
Binge eating disorder (BED) was recently classified as an eating disorder in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).
Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorders (OSFED)
If a teen’s eating habits or food-related behavior causes significant distress or impairment, yet doesn’t meet the criteria for a specific eating disorder, it may still be an eating disorder. In addition to OSFED, Unspecified Feeding and Eating Disorders (UFED), where symptoms do not meet criteria for any other diagnostic category, was added to the the recent DSM-5.
Atypical anorexia, orthorexia nervosa, extreme food restrictions, excessive nighttime eating, and purging without bingeing are just a few examples of other eating disorders.
How to Get Help for a Teen With an Eating Disorder
Eating disorders are the most fatal of all mental health conditions. If you suspect your teen may have an eating disorder, seek immediate treatment. Talk to your teen’s physician about your concerns and discuss treatment options.
Treatment for an eating disorder may consist of individual therapy, family therapy, or even residential treatment. Treatment should be guided by a physician and mental health professional who address the psychological and physical health of a teen throughout the treatment process.