How Eating Disorders Impact Teens
An eating disorder can happen to anyone at any age but are more common in teens. It is important to know when your teen’s eating habits are a phase and when his or her eating behavior has become an eating disorder. Examples of how teens can develop an eating disorder include:
- A teen girl has her first dance coming up. She starves herself to fit into her new dress. After the dance, if she continues to focus on being even thinner she may develop anorexia nervosa.
- A teen boy is working out to make the football team. He starts to like the attention he gets because of his new muscular body. A new intense focus on exercise and weight loss might lead to bulimia.
What is an Eating Disorder?
- An eating disorder is a psychological disorder. A teen who has an eating disorder can be concerned about and obsessed with his or her body image (how he or she looks).
- The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry estimates that about 1 of 10 teens will have an eating disorder. It is more common in girls but can also happen to boys.
- An eating disorder can be manifested through other mental illnesses, including anxiety, depression, OCD and more.
Causes of an Eating Disorder
There is no one cause of an eating disorder. Some things that can make a teen more likely to develop one are:
- Family and society pressure to be thin
- Low self-esteem
- Psychological conditions
- Participation in sports and activities that encourage lean muscles and thin bodies such as ballet, gymnastics and running.
Long-term Side Effects of an Eating Disorder
An eating disorder can harm your teen’s nutrition and his or her physical and emotional health. If not treated, an eating disorder can lead to long-term health problems and death. Some long-term effects are:
- Hair loss
- Loss in bone density
- Heart disease
- Kidney failure
- No longer getting a period
Common Eating Disorders
2.7% of teens in the U.S. between 13 and 18 years old have an eating disorder. This figure may sound like a low percentage of teens, but even so, the impact an eating disorder can make is huge. The most common types of eating disorders among teens are:
- Anorexia nervosa – a constant need to lose weight. A teen will starve to maintain his or her weight loss. His or her self-worth is linked to how thin he or she looks.
- Bulimia nervosa – a compulsive need to binge eat and overeat, then throw up the food. Some teens also use laxatives shortly after eating.
- Binge eating disorder – a compulsive need to overeat such as in bulimia but the teen does not throw up.
A teen can overcome an eating disorder and live a healthy life with the right resources for recovery. Here are some examples:
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