Bulimia is a common eating disorder that can quickly take happy, healthy young people and put their lives at risk.
Millions of Americans—teenagers in particular—suffer from bulimia. Unfortunately, few get the appropriate treatment they need to get well.
Teen Girls and Boys with Eating Disorders
Of the teenagers diagnosed with bulimia, 90 percent are girls and young women according to Current Opinion in Psychology. The journal reported that since the 1970s, diagnoses of bulimia have been rising in number. In the year 2000, new diagnoses were pinpointed at 6.6 per 100,000.
The bad news is that teen bulimia treatment is difficult to diagnose. Furthermore, many living with the disorder have a normal body weight and the signs of bulimia are not always recognizable. Some good news is that Clinical Evidence Online reports that 10 years after the diagnosis, about 50 percent of patients will make a full recovery. Meanwhile, 33 percent will make a partial recovery, leaving only 10 to 20 percent still experiencing issues with the disorder.
You Are Not Alone, Ever
Contact us today for more information about our programs. Learn more about how we can help you and your family heal after the ordeal of bulimia. We are here to help!
What is Bulimia?
Bulimia, or bulimia nervosa, is an eating disorder in which the individual engages in binge-and-purge behavior. Teens with bulimia strive for an unrealistic self-image. This condition is typified by first bingeing or eating a large meal, and then purging. Some bulimics vomit, use laxatives, or apply other methods to rid the body of food before its absorption. Therefore, the binging and purging that accompanies bulimia is exceedingly dangerous to the health.
Teen Behaviors and Bulimia
Rather than limiting portions, the patient will purposely sit down to eat between 5,000 and 15,000 calories in a sitting. Then, they immediately purge. To aid in ridding the body of calories, the patient may also exercise frequently. Consequently, they might also go through periods of eating little or nothing at all. Also, they may take diuretics and other over-the-counter medications to lose weight. They also might try to lose water weight. Hence the danger of this condition is nothing to take lightly.
Why Is Teen Bulimia So Dangerous?
Bulimia is especially insidious when it occurs in young people. During the teen years and on through the early 20s, many of the body’s most crucial organs (repertory, reproductive, etc.) and functions are developing. Bulimia can stunt the progress of this development, thus causing problems that can last a lifetime. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, harmful physical effects from bulimia include the following:
- Depression, low self-esteem, anxiety, fear of gaining weight, and an unrealistic self-image
- Oral ailments including enamel and gum erosion, cavities, gum disease, and swelling and soreness of the cheeks
- Inflammation and potential rupture of the esophagus
- Heart problems including arrhythmia, heart failure, irregular heartbeat, low pulse and low blood pressure
- Kidney malfunction due to the abuse of diuretics
- Intestinal and stomach issues like diarrhea, stomach cramps, bloating, ulcers and constipation
Dehydration, anemia, weakened muscles, amenorrhea, and death are all possible for someone with the disorder. Therefore, if you notice any health symptoms, you need bulimia treatment right away.
Causes of Bulimia
According to a study in Psychology Bulletin, there is great cultural pressure to be thin. The promotion of dieting and weight loss is ever-present. This contributes to the development of bulimia among teens with low self-esteem and weight gain issues. Why then do some teen boys and girls develop the issue while others don’t? A study in Archives of General Psychiatry reports that there are many other factors contributing to bulimia. These include:
- Co-occurring mood disorders
- A history of sexual or physical abuse
- Overweight parents or guardians
- Drug and alcohol abuse
- Low self-esteem
- Unstable home life
- Pressure to be perfect, either internal or external
Another study in Clinical Pediatrics suggests that bulimia may be inherited or related to certain genotypes.
Bulimia and Teen Boys
The largest percentage of bulimia cases are among women ages of 13–25. Men can also suffer from bulimia as well as other eating disorders. Some reports say that as many as 10 percent of all bulimia cases involve men. That the number could be even higher due to the fact that fewer men seek psychological treatment or care.
According to a study in Pediatric Annals, there is often a different motivation for weight loss among teen boys. They may struggle with bulimia like their female peers. In many cases, the goal is to lose weight for a sport, like wrestling. With sports such as this, the exact weight determines competitive status or ability to compete. In other cases, when obesity or being overweight is the issue, teen boys may turn to bulimic behaviors to avoid being teased.
Diagnosing Teen Bulimia
The patient’s first steps to bulimia treatment are diagnosis and evaluation. It is important for the medical team to determine the severity of the disorder. They also need to learn whether or not the patient has other co-occurring mental health issues. Medical disorders can also be related to long-term bulimia.
Medical Stabilization for Teens
A medical doctor will first make sure that physical stabilization isn’t necessary. If there are issues of anorexia, severe depression, or if drugs are necessary, hospitalization may be necessary. Once the patient is stabilized and ready to move forward, the treatment can proceed. If no issues are present, the patient will be checked for rashes, broken blood vessels in the eyes from straining to vomit, and cuts along the fingers and knuckles from forcing oneself to purge. In addition, they’ll be given a few different tests. These determine levels of dehydration and vitamin and mineral depletion in the blood.
Mental Health and Bulimia
Next, a psychiatric evaluation is necessary. In some cases, co-occurring disorders may be of concern. These can include drug and alcohol dependence, depression, anxiety, or other issues along with bulimia in teens. Hence, it’s important to identify these issues early to create a treatment plan. Therefore, the plan addresses all problems simultaneously, thus increasing the chances for success in recovery.
Bulimia Is Treatable
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health, bulimia is treatable. This is provided certain points of care are provided. These include:
- Team of medical professionals. Choose a program that is run by a team of professionals who specialize in the treatment of eating disorders for teens.
- Nutritional counseling and education. Part of bulimia treatment includes supervised meal planning and preparation of healthy meals.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Different types of therapy will be more or less effective for different patients. CBT tailored for the treatment of bulimia has been found effective. It helps teen address underlying issues that drive bulimia and learn safer coping mechanisms.
- Monitored meal times. It is important that patients are supervised by staff members before, during, and after meals. This ensures that proper behaviors are chosen.
- Medication. In some cases, medication may be appropriate. It might be necessary to stabilize the patient initially during treatment and beyond. Antidepressants such as fluoxetine or Prozac may be prescribed. The latter being the only medication FDA-approved for the treatment of bulimia. These may be helpful in fighting associated depression and anxiety.
- Overeaters Anonymous. 12-step programs can be an excellent resource to augment outpatient treatment. Some incorporate these programs into inpatient treatment. They increase the chances of success for teen patients because they help make the transition from treatment to home more seamless.
Teens Need Support
The A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia reports that support groups for teens with eating disorders or bulimia can be effective. Consequently, teens benefit from finding that they are not alone in their issues with eating disorders and gain support and strength from peers.
It is important to note that there is no such thing as a cure for bulimia. However, a combination of the treatments can be effective when a comprehensive plan is created and followed. Though relapse is common, it does not have to be a permanent setback. In fact, it can be used as a learning opportunity to help increase the length of time spent in remission following the relapse.
How to Help Your Teen Fight Bulimia
According to the National Eating Disorders Association, help for teens with bulimia starts when parents get involved. There are a number of suggested measures for parents to take. These will help the teen move closer to treatment and a more balanced relationship with food and self. They include:
- Open the lines of communication. Parents need to sit down for a talk. Formally or informally, the initial conversations need not be serious. But soon it will be important to find a private place to discuss eating issues and the possibility of treatment.
- Be honest. Parents should feel comfortable expressing their concerns honestly. Talk about the health issues related to bulimia, hopes for treatment, and suspected signs of bulimia.
- Remain calm. Parents of teens living with bulimia express a range of emotions including anger, frustration, sadness and fear. Though those are all valid emotions, it’s important to keep their expression to a minimum while speaking directly with teens.
- Suggest therapy. Before jumping into a discussion of a full-fledged inpatient treatment program, parents can suggest a few sessions with a therapist who specializes in the treatment of bulimia and has experience working with teenagers.
- Don’t argue. Chances are, parents will come up against resistance. Fighting won’t help and may just create new issues.
- Remain firm. Arguing won’t help, but stand your ground. In addition, make sure that the teen sees a therapist for the issue of bulimia.
- Remain supportive. It is important to remain nonjudgmental. Make a point of letting teens know that they are loved and supported no matter what.
Newport Academy Provides Help for Teens With Bulimia
The teen treatment programs at Newport Academy help kids overcome their fight with bulimia. We provide them with the tools they will need to start making better choices to build a more contented and balanced life. Our clients work closely with the counselors at Newport Academy. Every teen and their family will receive tailored treatment. This is the best way to addresses his or her needs.
In conclusion, if your teenager is struggling with bulimia or another eating disorder, contact Newport Academy today.