Disordered eating is much more common than many people realize. Those who experience eating disorders often do not recognize that there is anything wrong, and if they do, they live with shame and fear of confrontation by those close to them. The factors that underlie eating disorders are complex and deeply rooted, and awareness and understanding are critical to being able to recognize warning signs and support a loved one.
As with those who have other mental health issues or addictions, people with an eating disorder often resist getting help because they are unable to acknowledge they have a problem. Stigma is a significant part of this dynamic. Call Pennsylvania Adult & Teen Challenge (PAATC) to get advice about how you might help your loved one realize it’s time to access our eating disorders treatment program in Rehrersburg, PA. We can also help you recognize the signs of bulimia, anorexia, and other common eating disorders.
Why Do Teens Experience Eating Disorders?
Teenagers make up the largest group of people with eating disorders. There are a number of factors that contribute to teens’ developing disordered eating.
- Genetics, researchers now understand, play a role for some people, making them more prone to an eating disorder.
- Stress hormones like cortisol and an excess of serotonin are evident in those with eating disorders and are linked to eating disorders. These unusual hormone levels can be genetic or the result of psychological factors.
- Trauma and/or family history can greatly influence disordered eating. Factors such as family instability, unhealthy family relationships, victimization, bullying, or abuse can all play a role.
- Co-occurring mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, or OCD are common in those with eating disorders, as are factors such as low self-esteem, difficulty managing strong emotions, and perfectionism.
Cultural attitudes about body type and physical appearance, especially among girls, have a role as well, though not as much as was once believed. It is challenging for teens to live up to the expectations of beauty projected in the media they are steeped in daily.
Symptoms of the Common Eating Disorders
There are three eating disorders in teens that are most common. Below is a range of symptoms you might recognize, but remember that, as with all mental health disorders, no two people present exactly the same. If you have concerns that someone you love is struggling with an eating disorder, consult your family doctor.
Signs of Anorexia
Medically referred to as anorexia nervosa, this is the most commonly recognized disorder and involves compulsive control of food intake and avoidance of food and eating. Teens with anorexia often show the following symptoms:
- Measuring food amounts and calories
- Strict food restriction
- Denial of hunger followed by gradual true loss of appetite
- Body dysmorphia, to the point that they see a fat body in the mirror even when they are dangerously thin
- Excessive exercise compulsions
- Amenorrhea in females
- Thinning hair
- Accelerated growth of body hair
Signs of Bulimia
Bulimia nervosa is characterized by binging followed by purging to compensate for food intake. Bulimia often goes unnoticed because those who suffer from this disorder are usually of normal weight. Signs of bulimia include:
- Vomiting after meals (disappearing into the bathroom regularly after meals)
- Use of laxatives or enemas
- Lengthy fasts
- Unusual eating habits or rituals
- Hiding food or wrappers
- Disappearing into the bathroom after meals
- Impulsivity and a tendency to overachieve
- Excessive exercise
- Bad breath
- Irregular or no menstruation
- Fatigue and muscle weakness
- Damaged, discolored teeth
- Scarring in the throat, frequent sore throat, pitted tonsils
Signs of Binge Eating Disorder
Binge eating disorder is similar to bulimia without purging behaviors. Those with this disorder will eat uncontrollably and suffer from constant feelings of helplessness and shame. This disorder can become uncontrollable and result in shame and feelings of helplessness. Symptoms of binge eating disorder include:
- Stress-related eating
- Eating due to feelings of powerlessness
- Eating in private
- Hiding evidence of binges
- Feeling out of control
- Heart disease
- Irregular menstruation
Eating Disorder Treatment at PAATC
Teens have long been a special focus for PAATC as we recognize the vulnerabilities of the years between childhood and full adulthood. Addiction, eating disorders, and other mental health challenges are affected by the high levels of stress that most teens experience these days.
Learn how our professional staff can help your teen face and overcome an eating disorder, as well as the shame and fear that go along with it. Reach out today by calling us at 844.442.8673 or simply filling out this online form. We are ready to answer your questions.