Eating Disordered Behavior

Eating disordered (ED) behavior, also known as disordered eating, has become increasingly more common in adolescents and teenagers. ED behaviors can occur in both males and females. Furthermore, such behaviors can lead to increased incidence of suicidal thoughts.

What Is Eating Disordered Behavior?

Eating disordered behavior, also known as food disorders, are unhealthy eating patterns that tend to arise in adolescence. Ranging from restrictive dieting and food exclusions to skipping meals and compulsive eating, ED behaviors often are signs of eating disorders in a nascent stage of development. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, disordered eating is defined as “a wide range of irregular eating behaviors that do not warrant a diagnosis of a specific eating disorder.” However, early intervention in response to eating disordered behavior often helps.

The origin of eating disorders is very complex. Cultural values, combined with modern commercial imagery, can generate eating disordered behavior. The causes of eating disorders and ED behaviors tend to be self-esteem issues that manifest as stress about appearance and social acceptance.

For many teenagers with ED behaviors, eating disordered behavior develops slowly, and suddenly becomes apparent in late adolescence. Signs of eating disordered behavior include obsessive calorie counting, a focus on fad diets, and excessive exercise regimes. Therefore, disordered eating often seems like other eating disorders, but less severe. Eating disordered behavior treatment includes psychotherapy, nutritional counseling, and inpatient support to shift ED behaviors.

Sources: US National Library of Medicine (National Institutes of Health), Psychology Today, KidsHealth.org

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