28 million Americans will experience some form of disordered eating in their lifetimes. There is a lot of misinformation about eating disorders, and many people do not understand the many ways that these disorders can show up. Most people have heard of anorexia and assume that someone with an eating disorder will look very thin and frail, but fewer than one in ten people with an eating disorder are underweight. It is generally not possible to know by looking at someone if they suffer from eating disorders. Thus, eating disorders in teens often go undiagnosed and untreated. They can result in lasting health consequences or even death. People need to understand this deadly mental health disorder, so those who need it can receive treatment for an eating disorder.
To learn more about eating disorders and teen mental health, how to access eating disorder treatment, and how to recognize the common eating health disorders, reach out to Pennsylvania Adult & Teen Challenge (PAATC) by calling 844.442.8673 to speak to a staff member, or using our online form to connect with someone.
Common Eating Disorders in Teens
There are three eating disorders in most common teens. Each has a set of symptoms and criteria to help you determine if your teen is a victim of one. However, any concern about your teenager’s eating should be explored with a doctor, even if not every box is checked. As with any mental health disorder, there will be a range of symptoms, some more noticeably represented than others.
Commonly referred to as anorexia, this disorder involves avoidance of eating and strict control over food amounts. Teens with anorexia often show the following symptoms:
- Measuring food quantities and calories
- Denial of hunger followed by actual loss of appetite over time
- Compulsive food restriction
- Extreme body dysmorphia, believing they are fat when they are, in fact, dangerously thin.
- Excessive, compulsive exercise routines
- Psychological signs like depression, withdrawal, and anxiety
- Amenorrhea in females
- Thinning head hair and thickening body hair
Bulimia is characterized by binging and purging. After a binge, sufferers try to compensate for their food intake by causing themselves to vomit, using a laxative or enema, fasting for long periods, or all these. The cycles can occur many times a day or just a few times a week, and the disorder often goes unnoticed as sufferers can usually maintain a normal weight. Warning signs include:
- Unusual eating habits or rituals
- Hiding food or food wrappers or containers
- Disappearing into the bathroom after meals
- Dependence on laxatives or diuretics
- 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
Binge Eating Disorder
Binge eating disorder is similar to bulimia without purging behaviors. Excessive eating can become uncontrollable and result in shame and feelings of helplessness. As with the other two disorders, teens with this disorder usually lack an accurate body image. Symptoms of binge eating disorder include:
- Eating in private and hiding evidence of binges
- Eating that is linked to stress, hopelessness, or feelings of powerlessness
- A sense of being out of control
- Shame and guilt around eating
- Health consequences like hypertension, diabetes, irregular menstruation, and heart disease
Eating Disorder Treatment
The long-term effects of eating disorders can last for years or even a lifetime. Treatment is vital for the health and well-being of the sufferer. There is a genetic component to eating disorders. Still, they are also triggered and exacerbated by the misleading images and messages on social media to which teens are so susceptible, as well as peer pressure, misinformation, and lack of education about these deadly disorders. Eating disorders are considered the second deadliest mental health disorders after opioid addiction.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is considered one of the best treatments for eating disorders. Group therapy is also highly successful as the group setting reinforces messages of support and solidarity vital for this population that feels isolated and ashamed.
Eating Disorder Treatment at PAATC
Eating disorders in teens are far too common. Teens often resist admitting they have a problem. PAATC has a long history of working with teens in addiction treatment and other mental health challenges. Eating disorders, like addictions, involve compulsive behaviors, unrealistic self-image, and denial. They are also difficult to recognize for what they are until they’ve gone further than anyone would like.
Reach out today to find out how your teen can benefit from professional treatments to battle their eating disorder. Call 844.442.8673 or use our online form to connect quickly with someone who can answer all your questions.