Anorexia, or anorexia nervosa, is an eating disorder. It is one in which an individual has an irrational fear of weight gain. One may also have a distorted self-image. It is one of the deadliest mental health disorders facing teenagers today.
Anorexia is a Serious Disorder
When anorexia is evident, treatment is imperative. Eating disorders have a high mortality rate. Therefore, they can be life-threatening. Teens struggling with the disorder will suffer significant weight loss. This can damage internal organs. Hence, a variety of serious health problems and even death can occur. The earlier that anorexia treatment is sought, the more likely the patient will be to recover and heal.
Without teen anorexia treatment, young patients may face a lifetime of health problems that could be irreversible. As a result, professional help is critical.
Consequently, if you fear that your teen is living with anorexia and you are ready to get him or her the treatment necessary to heal, contact us at Newport Academy today. We are here to help.
Who Struggles With Teen Anorexia?
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Women’s Health (HHS) about 85 to 95 percent of those suffering from anorexia are female. Those diagnosed with anorexia are starving themselves. This is in service of a body image that may or may not be attainable and is not healthy. Therefore, many tightly control their food intake. They attempt to control aspects of their lives to ease anxiety, fear, or tension. Furthermore, even after losing an excessive amount of weight, anorexic patients believe that they have more to lose. As a result, they view themselves as overweight.
Causes of Teen Anorexia
Classified as a mental disorder, anorexia has physiological and mental effects. Therefore it may be caused by a combination of physical and mental issues. According to WomensHealth.gov, these may include:
- Anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders can increase the chance that the patient will develop anorexia. As a result, they attempt to control fear and worry.
- Social expectations. American women are under constant cultural pressure to conform to a very thin, often unhealthy beauty ideal. The inundation of magazine ads, movies, and television cause many to feel inferior.
- Stress. Trauma or life changes can make some patients feel out of control. Therefore, they find power by tightly controlling food intake.
- Family. Patients who have a mother or sister living with anorexia or severe body issues are more likely to develop anorexia.
- Genetics. Biology may also affect the predisposition to the development of anorexia.
- Low self-esteem. Patients who are critical of their appearance may be more likely to go to extreme measures to alter their body shape.
The Warning Signs of Teen Anorexia
More than other eating disorders such as bulimia and binge eating, anorexia nervosa has distinct symptoms.
According to MedLine Plus, these are some warning signs:
- Rapid, severe weight loss. Watch for teenagers who were once normal weight or overweight who become thin quickly.
- A refusal to eat in front of others. Individuals with anorexia do not like to eat in front of friends or family. Therefore, they prefer to consume food in isolation.
- Binging and purging. On the other side of the coin, many who suffer from anorexia will binge and purge their food. This is not unlike those who suffer from bulimia.
- Multiple missed menstrual periods. Girls and women who miss three or more periods in a row may have anorexia.
Anorexia’s Effect on the Body
According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, anorexia has an extreme effect on the body. This includes:
- Brain. Mental cloudiness, changes in brain chemistry, memory loss, mood swings, depression, irritability, fear of gaining weight and other issues are related to malnutrition caused by anorexia.
- Heart. Lower heart rate and blood pressure, heart palpitations, and heart failure are all consequences of anorexia.
- Blood. Anemia is common.
- Hair. Hair loses its shine, becomes brittle and thins without the right nutrients.
- Muscles and bones. Bones weaken and become brittle, breaking more easily. Muscles become weakened and muscle mass is lost.
- Skin. Skin dries out, can yellow and bruises more easily in anorexic patients.
In addition, issues like anemia, constipation, bloating, infertility, and amenorrhea are common with anorexia.
Co-Occurring Disorders and Teen Anorexia
Co-occurring mental and medical disorders are common among those with anorexia. In some cases, the coexisting health issue occurs as a direct result of anorexia. Furthermore, in other cases, a mental disorder took hold first and instigated the issues with eating and food characterized by anorexia.
Dual Diagnosis and Anorexia
When anorexia has set in, depression can begin or worsen. Irritability, obsession with food, and abusing drugs and/or alcohol can become serious issues of their own. Therefore, attention is needed fast.
When a teenager has dual diagnoses, it is vital to seek treatment. Find a program that can provide medical and psychological care for both issues at the same time for optimum recovery.
Anorexia Is Treatable
According to a study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, a patient can recover from anorexia with medical intervention and treatment. When you choose an anorexia treatment program for your teen, you provide them with the care they need. Furthermore, treatment allows teens to get back to a healthy weight. In addition, they learn how to avoid obsessive thinking about food and weight.
Anorexia Treatment Modalities
A few different kinds of therapy and ongoing treatment work together to create a cohesive recovery for the patient. Personal therapy and family therapy provide education to other family members as well as the patient.
Nutritional counseling, educational classes, and regular monitoring and guidance at meal time are important. Therefore, a multi-faceted approach is key.
Anorexia Treatment and Medication
In some cases, antidepressants may be prescribed. They can address depression and anxiety that often coincide with anorexia. However, there are some dangers to take into consideration. There is a ‘black box’ warning on most antidepressants, which means there are significant issues. Medication is no quick fix. It is possible that adolescents will be more likely to have suicidal thoughts with antidepressants. However, it is also possible that these medications can alleviate the issues. Mood fluctuation and anxiety often coincide with anorexia.
Each case is different, and it is important to check the latest findings on the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) website.
Helping Your Teen Heal From Anorexia
Parents who are anxious to help their resistant teen begin the fight against anorexia can start the process of recovery at home. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, some positive steps toward healing include:
- Talk about the problem
- Discuss the concept of treatment
- Schedule an appointment with a professional
- Don’t argue
- Don’t blame
- Offer unconditional support. No matter what the response is, parents are encouraged to stay calm and let their teen know that they are loved, no matter what.
If your teen is experiencing failing health due to anorexia but still refuses treatment, make sure that he/she gets the help she needs.
A study reviewed the efficacy of treatment on unwilling patients diagnosed with anorexia. It was published in the Current Opinion in Psychiatry. It states compulsory admission may be justifiable and necessary when the disorder is life threatening. Hence, this is not easy, but it is sometimes necessary.
Outpatient Teen Anorexia Treatment Versus Inpatient Teen Anorexia Treatment
In most cases, treatment begins with a hospital stay for stabilization. In addition, a longer hospital stay may be warranted. Inpatient treatment may be necessary to ensure that the patient is stabilized and/or on medication. According to the National Institutes of Health, this may be necessary if:
- The patient is below 70 percent of their healthy body weight
- Life-threatening health issues are present
- One requires feeding through a tube
- The patient continues to lose weight while in treatment
- Further medical issues develop
- Experiences suicidal thoughts.
Anorexia treatment can be a long process. Also, not all patients will respond to every type of treatment. It is also important to note that there is currently no cure for the disorder. Hence, effective treatments allow patients to live without relapse for long periods of time. Therefore, ongoing support is necessary to help the patient find a stable, safe relationship with food.
What Happens During Teen Anorexia Treatment?
When a teenager enters anorexia treatment, they receive medical and psychiatric care designed to:
- Stabilize their physical condition
- Understand the root causes of their condition
- Develop proper nutritional skills like meal preparation and scheduling meals
- Help them regain a normal weight at a rate of one to three pounds per week
- Increase social activity
- Decrease physical activity
All of these goals strengthen their mind, body, and spirit. As a result, the best teen anorexia programs employ both medical professionals and psychiatric counselors. Consequently, they must provide integrated care for the teenager.
Teen Anorexia Treatment at Newport Academy
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, only about 33.8 percent of those who need treatment for anorexia nervosa get help. Therefore, parents of teenagers with anorexia are urged to find treatment immediately. In conclusion, know that help is available.
To learn more about individualized anorexia treatment for your teenager, contact Newport Academy today.