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How Do I Know If My Teenager Has An Eating Disorder?

Eating disorders are a growing and alarming problem among teenage girls.  Girls may chronically overeat, or at the opposite extreme, may starve themselves in an effort to look thin.  When a person diets to the point of losing 25% or more of her normal body weight, she is suffering from a condition called anorexia nervosa.  Another common disorder, bulimia nervosa, involves a destructive cycle of binging and purging, either by vomiting or with the abuse of laxatives or diuretics.

Men and boys are feeling worse about their bodies, too.  Research shows many are dieting excessively, over exercising, and using steroids to achieve a muscular physique.  Athletes are particularly vulnerable to these problems.  More males are suffering from eating disorders and steroid abuse than is currently assumed, and they often have nowhere to turn for help.

The statistics are frightening.  Studies suggest that as many as 10% of American youngsters will develop an eating disorder during their teenage years.  We also know that between 5% - 20% of the teenagers who develop anorexia or bulimia will ultimately die from their disease.  Of those who survive, one in four will continue to suffer these conditions for the rest of their lives.

Remember that anyone can develop an eating disorder.  They affect people of every socioeconomic level and of every race, although they are most prevalent among white, upper-middle class females between the ages of 13 and 30.  Since teenagers with eating disorders often feel a great deal of shame about their behavior, they rarely seek help from parents, teachers, or other mentors.  For this reason it is extremely important for the adults in a young person’s life to learn the signs of eating disorders, and how to help.

7 Warning Signs of Eating Disorders in Girls

  1. Has she had a large weight loss (25% or more of normal body weight) with no known medical illness causing it?
  2. Is she intensely afraid of gaining weight and does she talk a lot about dieting?
  3. Is she eating large amounts of food, which may or may not be followed by vomiting or laxative abuse?
  4. Is she constantly exercising, despite feelings of fatigue and weakness?
  5. Is she secretive about dieting, binges and vomiting?
  6. Has there been a noticeable change in her mood with increased proneness to anger, irritability, and depression?
  7. Does she have a history of physical, sexual or emotional abuse?

7 Warning signs of eating disorders in boys

  1. Is he preoccupied with the desire to become more muscular and “in shape”?
  2. Is he so dissatisfied with parts of his body (such as his chest, waist, stomach, shoulders, or height) that he feels ugly?
  3. Does he constantly exercise, despite feelings of fatigue and weakness, and feel extreme guilt when he misses a workout?
  4. Does he binge on high calorie foods, and/or purge by vomiting or laxative use?
  5. Does he use steroids to increase his muscle mass?
  6. Has there been a noticeable change in his mood with increased anger and irritability, or depression?
  7. Does he have a history of physical, sexual or emotional abuse?

If you recognize these signs in your son or daughter, please don’t despair.  Help is available and your child CAN recover.  Worried?  Have questions? If so, you can always call me for a free 15 minute consult about the next steps you should take to help your child get better.  Just go to our appointment request page, and write “I would like a free 15 minute consult” in the message box, along with your name and contact information and I will contact you within 24 hours.  All consults are kept strictly confidential as well!

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