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Teen Eating Disorders & What You Need to Know

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Eating disorders in teens are caused by many factors. Many blame the media first as a big culprit. Statistics show that the media does have an impact on one’s obsession with weight. Television ads feature processed foods, commercials sell weight-loss supplements, and celebrity news glorifies famous thin people. Weight-loss strategies are often to help people achieve the body shape they want. But they have adverse effects on people who suffer from low self-esteem. Hence, this can eventually lead to an eating disorder. Overall, eating disorders affect about 30 million people of all ages, both male and female. However, these disorders are most prevalent in individuals between the ages of 12 and 25.

There are Multiple Types of Eating Disorders in Teens

Teen eating disorders cover a wide variety of problems. Anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating are the most common terms. With anorexia, patients often starve themselves or limit the type and quantity of food they eat. The idea is to maintain the body shape they perceive to be “perfect”. Bulimia takes the same mentality to another extreme. These sufferers purge the food they eat by using laxatives, diuretics, or vomiting. This act is often followed by binge eating, and then purging again. This can tur into a cyclic pattern.

Binge-eating is characteristic of those who do not feel any control over their eating. They consume large amounts of food in one sitting but do not purge the food. As a result, these patients are typically obese or overweight. The shame associated with their binge-eating often spurs more eating and the addictive cycle continues.

Teen Eating Disorders Require Help

Unhealthy weight control habits are rampant among approximately half of all teenage girls and roughly 33% of boys, according to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). These bad habits include vomiting, smoking cigarettes, fasting, taking laxatives, and skipping meals.

The concern for these patients is heightened. This is because teen eating disorders, such as bulimia and anorexia nervosa, can lead to death. In fact, for females between the ages of 15 and 24, the mortality rate of anorexia nervosa is 12 times higher than the rate linked to any other cause of death. Therefore, of all mental illnesses, eating disorders have been proven to show the highest mortality rate.

There are no clear reasons as to the cause of these teen eating disorders. In addition, most researchers point to a combination of psychological, genetic, biological, and social factors. Therefore, these disorders can often be a product of other mental illnesses. These may include depression or anxiety, and could be the byproduct of a substance abuse problem.

With the help of treatment programs dedicated to help teen eating disorders, there is hope for healing. Treatment programs include psychotherapists, medication, and even nutritional counseling. Many patients have been able to overcome their negative self-perceptions, but for others, the disorder is an ongoing battle, even while in treatment. The National Institution of Mental Health continues to conduct trials and further research to better understand teen eating disorders, and how to prevent them from affecting today’s youth. This research, and the work of organizations like NEDA, could be the key to stopping this epidemic in its tracks.

Teen Eating Disorders Infographic

Image courtesy of Unsplash.