In the United States there are 24 million Americans that suffer from an eating disorder and 95 percent are between the ages of 12 and 25. Eating disorders are psychological illnesses defined by abnormal eating habits that may involve either insufficient or excessive food intake to the detriment of an individual’s physical and mental health. Some of the common forms of eating disorders include binge eating disorder, bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa. These disorders are increasing all over the world among both men and women.
Research shows that 42 percent of first to third grade girls want to be thinner and 81 percent of 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat. Fifty percent of teenage girls use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, vomiting, taking laxatives and smoking cigarettes. These disorders tend to develop during the teenage and young adult years and are more common in girls. Many teens successfully hide their eating disorders from their families. No one knows the exact cause of eating disorders, but they seem to coexist with low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, substance abuse and trouble coping with emotions.
Bulimia nervosa is defined as consuming a large amount of food in a short amount of time followed by an attempt to purge or rid oneself of the food by vomiting, taking a laxative, diuretic, etc. because of a concern for body weight. Anorexia nervosa is characterized by food restriction, odd eating habits and an irrational fear of gaining weight. There is a distorted body self-perception of being overweight or not being thin enough. Binge eating disorder is eating an amount of food that is larger than what most people would eat and a sense of lack of control over eating. This behavior is done without subsequent purging episodes.
Some of the physical signs of teens with eating disorders include extreme weight loss, obsessing over food portions, calorie counting, excessive exercise, fear of gaining weight, regular trips to the bathroom after eating, use of laxatives, diuretics, enemas and wearing baggy clothes to hide their body.
Be very careful about the comments that you or family members make to your teen about their body. The negative comments can affect them because words can hurt. Compliment your teen and encourage them to eat healthy.
Eating disorders can have devastating effects on the body. While proper treatment can be highly effective for many suffering from eating disorders, the consequences can be long-term, severe and can include death. It is important that you know the warning signs and your teen should receive professional treatment by doctors and therapists immediately.