Eating disorders in teens are surprisingly prevalent. According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 1-in-10 young women struggle with an eating disorder.
For someone who struggles with an eating disorder, the thought of starting school in the fall can feel frightening. With school comes plenty of triggers— academic stress, social pressure, the business of balancing extracurriculars and the desire to fit it.
Parents and teens alike may feel nervous about the upcoming school year and eating disorder triggers that come with a changing and challenging environment. In this article, we’ll explore three common eating disorders in teens, how to spot them and what to do about them.
What is it? Anorexia, or anorexia nervosa, is an eating disorder in which a person consumes insufficient calories to maintain an appropriate body weight. Someone who struggles with anorexia will present with a clinically low body weight, an overwhelming fear of gaining weight, an obsession with counting calories or dieting and a distorted self-perception.
How can I spot it? Anorexia is often more noticeable than other eating disorders in teens due to the low weight that occurs due to extreme caloric restrictions. However, it’s important to be able to recognize other signs of anorexia because those who are affected by it may try to hide it.
- Dieting or restricting calories
- Frequent or intense exercise
- An obsession with controlling food
- Misusing laxatives and other medications
- Poor self-worth
- Equating image with value as a person
- Frequently weighing oneself
- Dizziness or fainting
- Absence of menstruation
- Heart problems
- Skipping meals
- Social withdrawal
These and other signs of anorexia are cause for concerns. If you notice these signs in yourself or someone you know, it’s time to reach out to a doctor.
What eating disorder triggers come with it? Anorexia has a competitive aspect that can be compounded by social comparison. Eating disorders in schools all face unique triggers, but concentrating on image can be one of them. Teens are often worried about appearance and it may contribute to the worsening of anorexia.
What is it? Bulimia is an eating disorder characterized by alternating bouts of binging and purging. Binging means overeating with a sense of losing control over the amount that is consumed. Purging is the act of getting rid of calories in an unhealthy way, often through self-induced vomit or misusing laxatives, dieting supplements, diuretics and enemas.
How can I spot it? Like other eating disorders in teens, someone who has bulimia will have an obsession with caloric intake and feel insecure about perceived flaws. You may notice that someone who has bulimia will have an obsession with weight and body image and appear to lose self-control when eating.
What eating disorder triggers come with it? Eating disorders in schools may present different symptoms in a school setting. Someone who has bulimia may partake in multiple sports using exercise to prevent weight gain, or frequently ask for bathroom breaks to purge food. Someone may also purge exclusively at home to avoid suspicion, or vice versa.
Binge eating disorder
What is it? Binge eating disorder is one of the most common eating disorders in teens. It may be ignored or dismissed, but the physical and mental health repercussions of this condition are serious. Binge eating disorder is characterized by periods of intense over-eating, followed by extreme guilt.
How can I spot it? Someone who struggles with binge eating disorder will feel out of control when eating, feeling unable to stop consuming food or unable to control what kinds of food are consumed. It is often described as a compulsion that is too powerful to resist. Symptoms include irregular eating patterns, continuing eating after being full, eating secretly and feeling depressed or ashamed after eating.
What eating disorder triggers come with it? Binge eating disorder can be triggered by the beginning of the school year for some teens due to intense social pressure to look a certain way. Teens may have additional opportunities to partake in unhealthy eating at social events, and also feel the compounded shame when comparing their bodies to others.
What to do
If your teen struggles with an eating disorder, you may feel like their behavior is out of your control. There’s no need to feel helpless, though, because there is treatment that is proven to work, bringing hope and healing to your teen and your whole family.
Seeds of Hope can offer you the support you need. Call today to get started with life saving treatment.