TEENAGERS AND EATING DISORDERS
In a society that places much emphasis on being thin and looking like a runway model, we are discovering a tremendous increase in eating disorders among our youth as well as in young adults In the US, one of ten will suffer from an eating disorder. These disorders are present in both male and female but occur most often in females.
In the younger, pre-teen years, overeating may occur more frequently due to tension, stress, poor nutritional habits, and fast-food diets. Once they arrive in the early teen years, they develop recognition of body image and a mental picture of what they believe is acceptable in their peer group; thus, the beginning of the anorexia nervosa or bulimia.
Parents should pay close attention to the daily eating habits of their child and be aware of certain warning signs for Anorexia:
- Constant preoccupation with food, the number of calories contained in each food item, and careful selection of foods at home as well as when eating out
- Playing with food or moving it around on the plate in order to appear as though eating when, in actuality, they are just going through the motions and killing meal time with the family
- A teenager with anorexia nervosa may be a perfectionist and a high-achiever. She may struggle with poor self-esteem, no matter how thin she may become, believing she is fat. She may have a preoccupation of checking herself out in every mirror that she passes and will, normally, feel disappointed in her own body image. Her distorted view of her body image may drive her to point of causing serious damage to her own body organs, and in a small number of cases, even death.
Symptoms of Bulimia may include the following:
- The adolescent may binge on large quantities of food or high-calorie foods and then, within a few minutes of consumption, disappear in order to self-induce vomiting to purge the unwanted calories
- They may frequently excuse themselves from the table prior to others finishing their meal in order to have privacy in the restroom and may use running water to mask the sound. They may also take frequent showers in order to purge while showering and masking the sound
- Long-term bulimia may be recognized by slight scaring on the index finger caused by stomach acids during the process of self-induced vomiting.
Severe diets, excessive use of laxatives, and dramatic weight fluctuations are signs of bulimia as well. Bulimia presents serious threats to the individual health and may also be accompanied by other disorders such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and sometimes, even self-mutilation.
Anorexia and bulimia both require comprehensive treatment. With accurate diagnosis and team treatment, the adolescent may gain control over the disorder. Early identification and treatment bring more favorable results. Through proper care by a team-approach, consisting of primary care physician, adolescent psychiatrist, nutritionist, and therapist, the outcome can be very successful. Other related disorders should be properly diagnosed and treated as well.
At Wolf Creek Academy, we are a second-step to the treatment for eating disorders for many of today’s adolescents. Our residential care may provide the ongoing therapy and oversight for an effective diet as well as proper exercise while continuing to provide support for the whole family.